Like the family of young Ms Dhu, I know what it is to lose a child from violence that they should never have encountered. 

As a young victim of family or intimate partner violence, and as an Aboriginal woman incarcerated for unpaid fines, Ms Dhu was in an especially vulnerable situation. The callous and racist treatment demonstrated by members of the police and hospital system towards this victim of domestic violence is unforgivable. 

Domestic and family violence is perpetrated against women and children of all cultures and races in Australia. The responses by the legal system charged with protecting the victims of this violence has been less than acceptable. 

While Australian governments have now made significant commitment to addressing violence through the National Plan of Action, the challenge is how we can translate these policy commitments to real results that ensure that all who experience domestic violence receive appropriate official responses at all levels of government. 

During my last year as Australian of the Year campaigning to end violence against women I have learnt that Aboriginal women and girls, especially, experience violence at unacceptably high levels. 

I do not support the continued imprisonment of Aboriginal women and girls for unpaid fines. There is too great a risk that Indigenous women, as victims of violence, will continue to die in police cells at the hands of uncaring police officers who don't acknowledge their victimisation and suffering. 

Ms Dhu's horrific death in a police cell in regional West Australia is a call to our national conscience. On this day known to many Aboriginal people as Survival Day or Invasion Day, I stand with Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal women and say out loud that Aboriginal women's lives do matter.

I urge the state government to commence urgent talks with the Aboriginal leaders of West Australia, especially women, to put an end to the private and public forms of violence perpetrated against Ms Dhu, and against all Aboriginal women and girls in their state, and throughout this country. 

 

'Rosemary Anne "Rosie" Batty is an Australian domestic violence campaigner and the 2015 Australian of the Year. '