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Plea to stop indigenous family violence

AAP logoAAP 17/11/2016 Lucy Hughes Jones

Prominent indigenous woman Jacinta Price could spend days telling stories about acts of family violence that she's witnessed, and she's fed up with a culture of silence preventing any action against it.

"I have known about this crisis all my life," she told the National Press Club in Canberra on Thursday.

The Alice Springs councillor remembers Christmas time as a nine-year-old, when the drunk husband of a relative took a fistful of his 18-month-old son's hair and flung the toddler around the room in a rage.

"I remember the blank look in the boy's eyes. He didn't cry out. He dangled silently from his hair," Ms Price said.

'"In remote communities, traditional culture is shrouded in secrecy which allows perpetrators to control their victims."

She's joined University of Melbourne professor Marcia Langton and Josephine Cashman from the Prime Minister's Indigenous Advisory Council to demand a national task force to combat the epidemic of domestic violence in Aboriginal communities.

"I call upon the federal government to do what has been done in light of Aboriginal youth in detention and hold a royal commission into the countless homicides, acts of violence and sexual abuse perpetrated against this country's most marginalised," Ms Price said.

Aboriginal women are up to 35 times more likely than non-indigenous women to be hospitalised because of family violence.

Ms Cashman said a fear of reprisals or becoming homeless stops victims reporting it, which then manifests as youth suicide, substance abuse and the continuation of a destructive cycle.

"Within this culture of silence, the police are the enemy. And anyone who reports or talks to them is called a dog and a snitch for collaborating with the white authority," she said.

The trio criticised the government's national action plan, saying it excuses criminal behaviour because men themselves are victims of trauma, racism and colonisation.

"We are witnessing the Stockholm Syndrome writ large by indigenous perpetrators, and their government and agency partners explaining this horrible situation as a matter of culture," Prof Langton said.

"This is the most racist of all stereotypes, so much worse than Bill Leak's cartoon of an Aboriginal man asking the police officer for his son's name."

They said the No More program in the Northern Territory, a grassroots effort that started in football teams but has since spread to entire communities, is the most effective in forcing men to take responsibility.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Opposition Leader Bill Shorten have committed to linking arms before parliament ends this year in a symbolic gesture to support the No More campaign, founded by Darwin's Charlie King.

Mr King wants members from all sides of politics to join in and spark a national conversation before Christmas.

Ms Cashman has called for an intergovernmental task force and says the Turnbull government is dragging its feet.

"People's lives are at risk. And it's time to actually match the rhetoric with action," she said.

"I have re-approached the PM in his new term and there's been complete silence."

Prof Langton said no one has a chance of closing the gap of Aboriginal disadvantage without putting a stop to the violence.

The calls came as a damning Productivity Commission report released on Thursday revealed the rates of psychological distress, imprisonment and substance abuse among indigenous Australians have worsened.

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