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Last Updated: Wednesday, 23 July, 2003, 13:20 GMT 14:20 UK
Australia takes on aboriginal violence

By Phil Mercer
BBC correspondent in Sydney

Australia's Prime Minister John Howard has met aboriginal leaders for urgent talks on new ways to tackle violence against women and children in native communities.

Mr Howard has said many indigenous Australians were struggling with worsening social problems, including domestic violence. He said it was an "appalling situation."

Surveys have suggested aboriginal women are more than 40 times more likely to suffer abuse at home than any other group.

John Howard
Howard will be face to face with some of his critics
In 1999, a report found that settlements in the northern state of Queensland were "imploding" under the weight of attacks on women and children.

Four years later, the situation across the country has shown no real sign of improving.

Mr Howard said indigenous elders believe the violence had reached crisis proportions.

Many of the 16 leaders meeting in Canberra have in the past been vocal critics of the prime minister.

He has refused to issue a formal apology for injustices suffered by Australia's half a million aborigines since European colonisation more than 200 years ago.

The conference will examine new ways of stopping the abuse that has devastated thousands of lives.

In a graphic example of the scale of the problem, one aboriginal woman has told the BBC how she was assaulted and tortured by her husband for more than 30 years.

She described how she was beaten with the leg of a television table for four and a half hours before being attacked with a hammer.

The causes of such violence are varied. Some observers point to endemic poverty, alcohol abuse and a lack of education and opportunity within indigenous communities.


SEE ALSO:
'Stolen' Aborigine returns home
03 Mar 03  |  Asia-Pacific
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01 Jul 03  |  Asia-Pacific
Aborigines dreaming of land
08 Oct 02  |  Asia-Pacific
Aborigines recover vast territory
27 Sep 02  |  Asia-Pacific



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