Shelter for indigenous women needed
AS AN ELDER of the Yuggera tribe, Aunty Faye Carr helps Indigenous women and men through life's problems every day.
Indigenous people who seek the help of Aunty Faye will normally find her at the site of the former Purga Mission.
The mission, on Ipswich-Boonah Rd, is a bittersweet place for the people whose families were often forced to live there decades ago.
It has morphed into a space where indigenous children can learn about their history or where Work for the Dole programs can help young people looking for a job get new skills.
But Aunty Faye and her daughter Samantha Carr said it was too far from Ipswich to be a permanent place where women can seek help.
They sat down with the QT as part of a week-long series celebrating Queensland Women's Week and said the major need for Ipswich's indigenous women was a space where they could seek help led by local elders.
Purga Mission currently offers a space where people can come to find help, but it is almost impossible to get to for anyone without a car.
Aunty Faye and Samantha said a shelter within Ipswich specifically for indigenous women would help address serious, chronic problems in the community.
"Sometimes it's just a matter of letting them sit down and talk and comforting them," Samantha said.
They said many indigenous women in the community were wary of people in authority and scared of trying to access help through mainstream shelters.
"A lot of them don't know how to talk to people in authority... because of what's happened in the past," Samantha said.
Aunty Faye, who was named Ipswich's Citizen of the Year for 2016, said child safety was a common issue in Ipswich.
She spent 14 years working with indigenous people in the legal service and continues to regularly visit Southern Queensland Correctional Centre in Gatton to work with indigenous prisoners.
Her and Samantha have been instrumental in setting up programs for indigenous people in the past few years, including a breakfast program at Bundamba Secondary College and regular events at Purga Mission.
The two women said much of the problem came from a disconnect between Child Safety and indigenous parents who may not have the skills to work within the government system.
"We had a family that came through legal service, they had six girls," Aunty Faye said.
"They (Department of Child Safety) took those six little girls.
"The mother and father... what they went through to try and get those girls back was just the saddest thing."
Samantha said there were cases where children should be removed from their families, but not in every case where it happened.
"Sometimes they just need to be worked with," she said.
A new shelter could also help address other issues that disproportionately affect indigenous women.
They are more likely than the general population to be affected by domestic violence, chronic or preventable disease and self-harm.
"I've dealt with a lot of women who have had these sorts of problems," Aunty Faye said.
Campaigns such as Close the Gap are also trying to address the disparity in life expectancy between indigenous women and men and non-indigenous people.
A federal mortality and life expectancy study showed the most common causes of death for indigenous women from 2008-2012 were ischaemic heart disease, diabetes and chronic respiratory disease.