During the pandemic, the federal, state, and territory governments took measures to protect the Australian public from the spread of COVID-19. The vast majority of Australians showed their willingness to prioritise collective welfare over individual rights by abiding by public health measures. However, what was lacking from the national response was consideration of the disproportionate impact on women. The pandemic has exacerbated gender inequality all over the world and, in Australia, it has been estimated that the pandemic set gender equality back by a generation. All over the world, violence against women increased during the pandemic - or what is now called 'the shadow pandemic'. Violence against women was already a public health crisis in Australia, but the impacts of the pandemic made women and children further vulnerable to men's violence. These impacts were exacerbated for First Nations women, particularly those living in remote parts of the Northern Territory. Yet these facts are largely missing from mainstream discourse, policy responses, and the public consciousness. Based on research carried out in the Northern Territory throughout the pandemic, this seminar will explore how COVID-19 measures disproportionately impacted Indigenous people, particularly in the Northern Territory. It will also explore how the pandemic exacerbated the gendered drivers of violence against women and increased rates of violence throughout the country. It will present some innovative ways frontline services, including Aboriginal Community-Controlled Organisations, sought to adapt and to respond to violence against women in the midst of another public health crisis.
Dr Chay Brown, Visiting Fellow at the Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research, and Research and Partnerships Manager at The Equality Institute