The head of a Bendigo-based Aboriginal agency says the arrival of a culturally safe legal service is likely to empower more women to speak out about family violence.
Djirra, an Aboriginal community-controlled organisation that specialises in family violence, has opened an office in Bendigo.
The office houses the Aboriginal Family Violence Legal Service program, but workers also provide non-legal support to Aboriginal people who have experienced family violence or sexual assault, who are mostly women and children.
"Expanding our services to two new areas means we can support more Aboriginal women in more places across Victoria," Djirra chief executive officer Antoinette Braybrook said.
"No Aboriginal women should be disadvantaged or denied access to specialist, holistic and culturally safe support just because of her where she lives."
Bendigo and District Aboriginal Co-operative CEO Raylene Harradine said it was important to have a culturally responsive organisation that understood what Aboriginal people were going through, as mainstream services did not offer the same level of understanding.
Ms Harradine said some women affected by family violence did not reach out to mainstream services out of fear of being misinterpreted.
"I think, for our community, it encourages our women to stand up and speak out against family violence," she said of Djirra's arrival.
It would fill the gap in the services BDAC offered, Ms Harradine said, in that it offered legal expertise.
She said the organisation's presence in the Bendigo area would provide opportunities to reduce family violence.
"It's going to be life-changing, for our women in particular," Ms Harradine said.
Aboriginal women are 45 times more likely to experience family violence than their non-Aboriginal counterparts, and 25 times more likely to be killed or injured.
Djirra's Bendigo staff will also work with women inside or recently released from Tarrengower Prison.
A 2018 Australian Law Reform Commission report found Indigenous female prisoners were likely to have been the victims of crime themselves, particularly family violence and sexual assault.
One Victorian survey study of female prisoners revealed 87 per cent were victims of sexual, physical or emotional abuse.
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