Counting Dead Aboriginal Women 2015

Since the beginning of the year, following a similar confronting poll which was run by feminist organisations in the UK last year, two polls have been running. The first one, tallied by Destroy the Joint, is entitled "Counting Dead Women 2015" and has been focussing on all women killed in violent attacks. The second one, run by Real for Women, is entitled "Man Murders Woman 2015" and specifically focusses on the victims of men's violence against women. Despite their different focusses, at this point in time the difference in the respective tallies is 1. 34 on DtJ and 33 on RfW. We are halfway through the 17th week of this year and based on the current trends, by the end of this week another woman is going to turn up dead and the tallies will tick over once more.

It is completely horrific in this country that we cannot go three and a half days without another woman being murdered. It is a national disgrace that this is not declared a state of emergency, a "war on women" and politicians aren't doing everything they possibly can to change things. It is astounding that the Prime Minister, who is also the Minister for Women, has instead sought to defund women's shelters, legal aid, and appears to not actually be remotely interested in women's issues at all. It is troubling to me that the media hardly covers this, that the public barely responds, and that where there is a murder/suicide, the numbers for suicide prevention lines are always listed, but not domestic violence support lines. Admittedly, it also concerns me that I can post an article up naming a woman as the 34th victim for the year and it barely gets a response. 34 women, no longer on this earth, and it's not really considered a issue in huge chunks of society.

Yet as these lists have grown, I have been scanning them; searching for cases involving Aboriginal women. I know other Aboriginal women have been doing the same. And the results have been utterly horrific. As it stands, right now, I can confirm that three women on this list are Aboriginal women, and I believe that there may be a fourth though am yet to confirm this. Of the three women I can confirm, two were killed by men (one an ex-partner and one an unspecified acquaintance) and one was killed by a woman. The links to these three cases are here in reverse chronological order:

25/4 - Brewarrina 
7/4 - Kalumburu 
12/2 - Broome 

In the case of the fourth woman whose case I am yet to confirm, her ex-partner was held in custody and was eventually charged with a breach of a DV order and drug offences. Investigation into her death continues.

29/3 - Alice Springs 

3, maybe 4. It doesn't sound like a huge number when stated in this way. Yet the reality is this: of the 34 women who have died as a result of violence this year alone,

between 9% and 12% of them have been Aboriginal women.

We make up nearly 3% of the population yet are currently represented in this list between 3-4 times what our population parity rates would be. What's more, and call me cynical, I have to wonder if there are more women out there we have not yet heard about or might never hear about. When you hear statistics like Aboriginal women are 38 times more likely to be hospitalised for assault than other women, it's really hard to not think the numbers might be higher and could still escalate. 

This is horrific and needs to end. Our government cannot be left unaccountable when it comes to their stripping of the funding of the very services which save women's lives. Mob cannot stay silent on this issue. So many of the good black men and women I know speak up and say it is not acceptable but regardless of this, there are those who, as Marlene Cummins stated in her film when describing a horrific rape she was subjected to or violence experienced by her and other women, say nothing. There seems to be a number of reasons why violence is tolerated - usually linked to racism - and this cannot be the case. This programme discusses some of them, though some views expressed are not my take on the matters, I do think with numbers like this we need to be talking more openly about these issues.

As someone who has left violence herself, I find it difficult to talk about this topic. The only time I really have is when I have made the argument that this is an issue of the patriarchy and that it is not just an issue in remote communities because our women aren't free from it in cities either. That and raising awareness on my Facebook page and including some statistics in my articles. I therefore have admiration for those who do speak about their experiences openly and publicly and maybe I will one day as well. This includes those who I usually have little else in common with. But the numbers on these lists are not going down. And with them we will see more Aboriginal women featuring in this list before the year is out. Even if the horrific trend of two women per week continues throughout the year, we have already surpassed the population parity rates with the Aboriginal women currently listed. This is why I am writing.

#stopthecarnage #womenslivesmatter #blacklivesmatter

Update 14/05/15: Yesterday, a further two deaths of women were reported. This woman is also Aboriginal. This brings the potential total up to five or nearly 14%

Update 25/05/15: Today, a further death was recorded on the Destroy the Joint page. Due to the fact that this death occurred in Yalata, an Aboriginal homelands 200km west of Yalata, I have concluded that the woman was most likely Aboriginal. This brings the potential total up to 6 out of 39, or at least 15%. This equates to five times population parity rates

Update 09/06/15: Today, a further death was again recorded on the Destroy the Joint page - a 23 year old woman from Tennant Creek. Currently, the total recorded on DtJ is 43, with 7 being Aboriginal women.

Update 25/06/15: Today, a death of a woman in Hilton has been recorded. This death has been confirmed to me by someone who knew her as being an Aboriginal woman. She was known to be a respected woman who fed and housed many people and was a "pillar of the community". A complete tragedy. The toll now sits at 8 Aboriginal women of the 47 women in total or 17%.

Update 6/7/15: On Saturday, the death of a woman in Oodnadatta was confirmed. From my own follow up, I have concluded that this woman is an Aboriginal woman. The toll is now 9 Aboriginal women out of 49 women in total, or 18%. Update 12/10/16 - Confirmed this woman was Serena Amos. Danny Ferguson has agreed to undergo traditional retribution on top of any court sentence he receives for manslaughter.

Update 24/8/15: This is a delayed update to this list. Unfortunately, in the past few weeks, the Destroy the Joint tally has continued to escalate reaching 58 women. Of those 9 women in the past 6 weeks, one is definitely Aboriginal and another is most likely Aboriginal. I am still endeavouring to confirm the status of this woman in Geraldton and if anyone has any additional information for me, I would greatly appreciate it. The other woman was from an Aboriginal community (Alpurrurulam) in the Northern Territory. This brings the toll up to 10 or 11 women, or nearly 19%. 

Update 3/10/15: A woman from Yirrkala in NE Arnhemland has been recorded today. She becomes at least the 11th victim of VaW this year, though my actual estimate is 13. This makes at least 16% of the Counting Dead Women tally.

Update 23/10/15: The investigation into Johann Morgan's disappearance has been upgraded to a murder investigation as of Monday this week. Johann has been missing since August. Further update 22/12: A man has been charged with her murder 

In addition, the name of Rachael Ann Michael has been released today in a plea for public information. Her case is being investigated as a homicide and neighbours have recorded hearing arguments. Rachael becomes at least the 13th Aboriginal victim of VaW this year, though my actual minimum estimate is 15. The total is 74 (Destroy the Joint) and 66 (Real for Women)

Update 22/12/15: This is an overdue update, which was held over initially pending further information. 

Last week a 29 year old woman was found dead in a home in South Hedland. A man has been charged in relation to her death. It has been confirmed now to me that she was a Martu woman.

Update: 19/08/16 - The woman from Alice Springs listed as number 4 in the original post has been named as Kwementyeye McCormack. Real first name not given for cultural reasons. 

My actual estimate now sits at 16 women out of 79.