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Inquiry into deaths and disappearances of First Nations women ‘will shock Australia’

A Federal parliamentary inquiry will investigate cases of missing and murdered First Nations women and children, including whether there is proper resourcing being dedicated to solve these crimes and hold perpetrators accountable.

Parliament voted Thursday to hold the inquiry after a motion was put forward by WA Greens Senator Dorinda Cox and Victorian Greens Senator Lidia Thorpe.

The motion received support from both sides of politics including Minister for Women’s Safety Anne Ruston, Minister for Women Marise Payne, Labor’s Pat Dodson and Jenny McAllister and Independent Jacqui Lambie.

It comes after concerns that cases relating to missing and murdered Indigenous women and children are not receiving the same level of attention or resourcing as cases where non-Indigenous women are victims.

Senator Cox, a proud Yamatji-Noongar woman, said that as a former police officer herself she knew the urgency of the crisis.

“This is necessary because we have a justice system that does not take seriously the issues of missing and murdered First Nations women and children in this country, so this inquiry will ask those question for those families,” she said. “This is linked to family and domestic violence First Nations women face in Australia, which is why we want to understand the framework and social issues that lead to these cases so we can do better to understand how to protect these women and children.”

Senator Thorpe, a proud Gunnai Gunditjmara and Djab Wurrung woman, said one of her own family members had been killed in a case she believed was not properly investigated.

“The woman that was murdered in my family was carried by the perpetrator and dumped on the front lawn of her mother’s house in Morwell, Gippsland, Victoria,” she said.

“Because there was substance abuse involved in that family, the police response was that they were drunks. No-one was held accountable, and that woman, my cousin, was left dead on the front lawn of her mother’s house in Morwell.”

Senator Ruston said the stories of missing and murdered Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women were going unheard.

“It is a national tragedy. These women have the right for the rest of Australia to understand what has happened to them and I believe it will and should shock every Australian to their very core,” she said.

The probe will look at current and historical practices including resources given to investigating the deaths and missing persons reports compared with cases of non-Indigenous women and children.

It will also interrogate the systematic causes of violence – including sexual violence – against First nations women and children including underlying social, economic, cultural and institutional causes.

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