Kerri-Anne Kennerley: 'If There Were More Shirleens In Australia There Would Be Less Abuse'
In my career I’ve had the privilege of meeting many wonderful, talented and powerful people, especially women.
This week, I spent the day with Shirleen Campbell at her home on the outskirts of Alice Springs.
I place Shirleen right up there with the very best, who are creating something special; doing what others can't and pushing boundaries. Above and beyond.
Shirleen is an Aboriginal woman of 36 who has lost her mother and two aunties through domestic violence. She keeps the anger of her loss in check, although it is deep, so she can move forward and spearhead a program for women and men so this does not happen again.
As a young woman she is remarkable in a culture of sensitivities that white people don't understand, but need to learn. Men and women have distinct and determined roles and from a white perspective, it seems a large gap and divide but within their community it works and is very much respected. Shirleen -- at her young age -- has gained the respect of both men and women elders but will not move on without their approval.
I learned a new mode of communication: Deep listening. I find this powerful and simple. If everyone could listen on that level the world would be a better place.
The programs Shirleen and the Tangentyere Women’s Family Safety Group have strived to set up are working but there is still so much to do.
I have such admiration for anyone who can create and develop something new, something not done before, against the odds, but she has. The layers of pain remain but she and her group are addressing them.
Domestic violence is a disgraceful national issue that crosses social and cultural boundaries. But the sad fact is that Aboriginal women are 35 times more likely to be the hospitalised due to family-related violence than other Australian women. I brought that issue to light and a tsunami of outrage followed.
I was invited by Shirleen and the Tangentyere Women's Family Safety Group to learn and see for myself the work being done. I have learned that if there were more Shirleens in Australia there would be less abuse, more people helped, more politicians with greater understanding and a wider community with respect of our Indigenous people.
Right now, there is just one Shirleen but she has wonderful backup, so her family can live in peaceful surrounds.
I’m thankful to Shirleen and the powerful group of women that form the Tangentyere group for telling me their stories.
I hope I can continue to practise ‘deep listening’.
Correction: An earlier version of this article said Aboriginal women were 35 times more likely to be victims of abuse than other Australian women. This has been amended.