CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Aboriginal traditional dancers carrying clap sticks and spears and with faces painted white with clay traveled from remote northern Australia to Parliament House on Monday to draw attention to rampant domestic violence in Outback indigenous communities.
Scores of Rirratjingu people flew 2,900 kilometers (1,800 miles) from Yirrkala in the Northern Territory to dance a ceremony at the front door of Parliament and to urge national action against family violence in communities such as theirs.
“We are seeing horrifying rates of family violence in indigenous communities and it is incumbent on all people — community leaders, political leaders and businesses — to act to drive it down,” Rirratjingu elder Bakamumu Marika said.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull linked arms with lawmakers of various parties, including opposition leader Bill Shorten, as a sign of solidarity against domestic violence as they watched the ceremony.
Turnbull later moved a motion in Parliament acknowledging that violence against women was a national issue that required a response from the entire community. The Rirratjingu people watched from the public gallery.
“Your dance is more powerful than the words we can speak here,” Turnbull said. “You’re using the strength of your culture to seek to stop this violence.”
“You’re using the power of your dance, your tradition, your culture, to communicate our need, our duty to respect women, and we thank you,” he said.
Indigenous women were 34 times more likely to experience violence than other Australian women, Turnbull said. Indigenous women were hospitalized for domestic assaults 30 times more often than other Australian women, he said.
“We can and we must do better,” Turnbull said.
Aboriginal communities around Yirrkala had reduced family violence by 29 percent in a single year through programs aimed at fostering respect for women, Turnbull said.