Why is Hey Sis needed?

Aboriginal women experience high rates of sexual assault.

Aboriginaland Torres Strait Islander women experience significantly higher rates ofsexual violence than other women1.  The Australian component ofthe International Violence Against Women Survey found thatthree times as many indigenous women will experience an incident of sexualviolence when compared to non-indigenous women (12% compared to 4%)2.Thereare many reasons for this:


  • In the 1992 report ‘Without Consent: Confronting Adult Sexual Violence’ Aboriginal women reported that the police response to sexual assault, and to Aboriginal women is not prioritised, is too slow, sexist, or racist. Some women reporting having experienced assault, or know of others who have been assaulted by police officers. They further reported that the lack of female officers meant reports had to be made to male officers which made the women feel uncomfortable.While NSW Police have dramatically improved their response to complaints of sexual assault not all matters have been resolved and for many Aboriginal women the legacy of the past continues to be a barrier to reporting.
  • Aboriginal women living in remote communities may not have easy access to Police.
  • Where the offender is Aboriginal there may be significant community pressure to not report as it is held that too many Aboriginal men are already in jail.


Aboriginalwomen report their experience of the courts to be a tool that is used againstthem not to help them. The court system is foreign. Aboriginal women reportfeeling unsupported and unprotected throughout court processes, and that humanissues are not adequately considered.3,4 Many  perceivethe system as being part of the colonisation process of their community andculture and there is strong identification with the Courts as a vehicle forremoval of children.


OneAboriginal woman’s negative experiences with hospitals, sexual assault servicesor counsellors can prevent other women in her community accessing services.Aboriginal women feel that non-Aboriginal health care workers are notculturally aware, and that it is only other Aboriginal women who willunderstand and know how to ask questions in a culturally appropriate way.3


As innon-Aboriginal communities, sexual assault is often interfamilial or theoffender is part of the person’s community. Aboriginal women can risk rejectionwithin their communities if they disclose their experience of sexual assault,or speak out against sexual violence. Pressure from relatives and supporters ofthe perpetrator can be very effective at silencing Aboriginal women, andpreventing them from reporting. This also means the offender can continue to offend.


  1. MemmottP. Stacy, R. Chambers, C. & Keys, C. (2001) Violence in IndigenousCommunities: Report to the Crime Prevention Branch of the Attorney General’sDepartment, Crime Prevention Branch of the Attorney General’s Department,Canberra. Accessed 05/07/12 via:
  2. Mouzos,J. & Makkai, T. (2004). Women’s Experiences of Male Violence, Findings fromthe Australian Component of the International Violence Against Women Survey (IVAWS), Research and Public Policy Series No. 56, Australian Institute of Criminology, Canberra. Accessed 05/07/12 via:
  3. Thomas,C. (1992). SexualAssault: Issues for Aboriginal Women. In Without Consent: Confronting AdultSexual Violence. Accessed 05/07/12 via:
  4. McGlade,H. (2006). Aboriginal women, girls and sexual assault: ACSSA Newsletter No.12 (September 2006). Accessed 05/07/12 via: