Ms Dhu 1c - Intersectionality


Race and Gender: At a critical intersection

Prior to the announcement of the RCIADIC, publicity surrounding Aboriginal deaths in custody was almost exclusively focused on the deaths of Aboriginal men. The 4 Corners program, ‘Black Deaths’, for example, while helping elevate public concern on this topic, concentrated solely on young Aboriginal men. This focus was ultimately replicated in the RCIADIC process and findings.

As part of the RCIADIC, ‘Regional reports’ were prepared for WA, QLD, NSW, VIC and TAS and ‘Underlying issues reports’ were prepared for WA and the NT. Of these reports, the Northern Territory Aboriginal Issues Unit (AIU) Underlying Issues Report, entitled ‘Too Much Sorry Business’ contained the most information about the treatment of Aboriginal women by police, including allegations of sexual and physical assaults. The report, authored by Professor Marcia Langton, a descendant of the Yiman and Bidjara nations, noted incidences of violence against Indigenous women and children.


The sections on police behaviour and accusations of sexual abuse against Indigenous women, however, were suppressed in the RCIADIC’s final report. While the AIU reports raised the concerns of Indigenous women, including family violence and alcohol abuse, violent treatment by the police, legal representation, women’s lore and motherhood, few of these concerns made it into the final report. The majority of the deaths investigated were of men, thus reinforcing the assumption that Indigenous men had been more disadvantaged and more adversely impacted by colonisation than Indigenous women.

The inquiry focused on Aboriginality, but did not consider an intersectional analysis with regard to the specific positioning and experiences of Aboriginal women as they differ from those of both Aboriginal men and non-Aboriginal women. Only five of the 339 recommendations made reference to women.

Aboriginal women do not die in the same circumstances as their male counterparts,  and preventative policies and measures need to be gender-specific. The white colonial legal system, however, frequently erases the experiences of women, particularly Aboriginal women.




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Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are respectfully advised that this website contains images of and references to deceased persons.

All viewers are respectfully advised that the site contains images of and references to the deaths in custody of Indigenous peoples, Black people and refugees that may cause distress.