Devon Cuimara readily offers the fact that he was once a violent man.
He left an abusive home and began abusing his own partner until he found a way to break the cycle of domestic violence. It is this lived experience that allows him to help others to do the same.
“I am the son of a father, who is the son of a father – three generations – who have all used violence,” he told 7NEWS.com.au.
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“I was not born violent. I grew up with violence, and if you grow up with violence, it becomes the norm and I believed it was the norm because everywhere I looked it was.
As Devon says, the problem is widespread.
A 2018 report from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare found that Indigenous women are one of the groups most at risk of domestic violence, being 32 times more likely to be hospitalized than non-Indigenous women. indigenous.
And two in five (41%) Aboriginal homicide victims were killed by a current or former partner.
For Devon, it has been more than two decades since he used violence.
“I didn’t want my son to be like me, to be like his grandfather or to be like his great-grandfather,” he said.
“I wanted him to take all their good values and all their good morals – the ones that failed them, failed me.”
He now spends his time working as the founder and chief executive of the Aboriginal Males Healing Center (AMHC), a non-profit organization working to break the cycle of domestic violence in Australia’s Pilbara region. western.
The center is based in Newman, a small mining town nearly 1,200km northeast of Perth, with a large indigenous population that has become vulnerable to poverty, alcoholism, drug addiction and domestic violence.
The AMHC was born after Devon’s own attempts to use mainstream rehabilitation services failed because he says they failed to address decades of intergenerational trauma that dates back to colonization.
“We’re not actually dealing with or dealing with this mental health issue”
“I’m part of the Stolen Generation, so I have many triggers that make me want to suppress my pain, including alcoholism and drug addiction,” he said.
“We are not actually dealing with or dealing with this mental health issue.
“I had a unique set of circumstances as an Indigenous person to explain why I was who I was…(and) there are no culturally appropriate services that deal with perpetrators in WA, especially residential.”
Instead, with the will to change, Devon’s mind and body became her “healing space.”
He realized that if he could learn it, he could also unlearn it.
Create a culturally safe space
Although AMHC operates a walk-in counseling service, the long-term vision is to create a 12-month residential healing program incorporating Western clinical care, underpinned by Aboriginal culture and traditions, developed and delivered by elders.
The program would be accessible to men on a voluntary basis or to those referred by the competent courts and services.
It aims to fill the void created by police orders and prison sentences by simply removing the men temporarily and sending them back without effective rehabilitation.
“We have to listen to people with lived experiences – not just the victims, but also the abuser because they are the problem – we are actually facilitating the problem by excluding them and isolating them with a punitive process.”
Devon said the center would create a “culturally safe space to work on these traumas”, which he says cannot be dealt with in a “traditional” way.
It’s a big investment, but he says “women and children are worth it”. The problem is that they can’t get financing.
“We’ve been to the National Indigenous Australians Agency, we’ve been to state government, we’ve been to federal government – we’ve lined up all our ducks in a row but we just can’t get the funding, ” he said.
“We have land, we have programs, (the costs) come out of my pocket and people work on a voluntary basis.”
Associate Professor at the Curtin School of Law and a member of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, Dr Hannah McGlade told 7NEWS.com.au that culturally appropriate intervention programs – like the one in Devon – are “essentially necessary”.
“It’s not smart justice to continually use an approach – a Western legal approach – that doesn’t work. It’s not smart or acceptable to have programs that don’t meet the needs of Indigenous people,” she said.
“We have been talking about it for a long time and we have not been heard”
“Women and men need programs to be designed, developed and delivered by Aboriginal people.
Dr. McGlade said while the rate of violence against Indigenous women is “staggering,” it is still underrepresented.
‘It can’t even be properly measured because many aboriginal women don’t call the police, and the risk of calling the police is that the children are taken away and there is no help for the men’ , she said.
“Women run away from home while men are free to come and go without treatment or support, without rehabilitation.
“We have been talking about it for a long time and we have not been heard.”
The next step
Operating with extremely limited resources, AMHC partnered with ECINS Australia in 2018 and adopted its case management module to begin collecting data to measure the extent of the problem and monitor the effectiveness of their interventions.
More recently, AMHC rolled out the ECINS Client Engagement module – an encrypted communication application that allows practitioners to contact clients directly and empowers them to take charge of the healing process.
The system includes a shared calendar, the ability to set tasks or send information, and create action plans that include family support mechanisms. Some 28 men are currently using the technology.
“We put the offender where we can see him, and we have a better chance of knowing what he is capable of doing. Every little bit of information matters,” Devon said.
Organizations are also working to share data with other social support organizations to provide ‘holiday’ support.
Thomas Pettengell, director of operations for ECINS in Australia, said that “by allowing this type of alliance approach, the abuser, the victim and the children can receive the support they need”.
Armed with this data and the ability to demonstrate the impact of its work, AHMC expanded its services to more people while developing a request for a $40 million government endowment to expand the residential facility.
ECINS has since launched an Australian Community Support Program, replicating its partnership with the AMHC, to provide $500,000 in free software services and subscriptions to Indigenous organizations and educational institutions.
“Without a monitoring and evaluation system, we’re just an empty ship,” Devon said.
“These are small steps, but considering all the heinous crimes that have taken place against women in relation to this topic of domestic violence – it’s a no-brainer for us.”
If you or someone you know is a victim of sexual assault, domestic or family violence, call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or go to 1800RESPECT.org.au. In an emergency, call 000.