The suffering of female victims and the criminalisation of gendered family and domestic violence in the Northern Territory

Date & time

5.30–6.30pm Thursday 11 October 2018


Phillipa Weeks Staff Library

ANU College of Law, 5 Fellows Road, The Australian National University


Dr Sarah Holcombe, Senior Fellow, University of Queensland, and Visiting Fellow at ANU


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Sarah Holcombe

The criminalisation of gender violence, though enormously important in validating women’s rights as human rights, has had particular and unintended effects in Aboriginal communities. In Alice Springs, Aboriginal women are known as ‘non-compliant’ and often discouraged from attending court by the prosecutors of domestic violence cases; being regarded as a hindrance to proceedings. 

This seminar will explore some of the intersections between legal rights, local perceptions of social justice, and gender violence.  Spousal or intimate partner violence exposes multiple sites of articulation with formal rights via the legal system while revealing, often in contradistinction, Aboriginal (Anangu) responsibilities in customary terms. By exploring the inter-subjectivity in these familial encounters, this seminar makes ethnographically visible why Aboriginal women tend to be ‘bad victims’ and why framing violence against women solely as a criminal issue, rather than a civil rights, human rights or public health issue, narrows the framework for understanding the scope, causes, consequences and remedies for violence against women. The seminar ultimately addresses the question; does the criminalisation of gendered family and domestic violence in the NT reduce the suffering of female victims? 

Chaired by Mary Spiers Williams, ANU College of Law.


  • Sarah Holcombe »

    Dr Sarah Holcombe is a social anthropologist whose works span both applied and academic contexts in remote and very remote areas of Australia. She spent her formative years as a regional anthropologist for, respectively, the Central and Northern Land Councils in the Northern Territory. Her core research interests include the practice of Indigenous human rights, legal anthropology, the anthropology of development, gender relations, and Integrity systems and ethics in research. Sarah was awarded an ARC Future Fellowship between 2012–16, for which the book from the research is; Remote Freedoms: Politics, Personhood and Human Rights in Remote Central Australia (Stanford University Studies in Human Rights Series). 



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