Mothering in the Context of Violence: Indigenous and Non-Indigenous Mothers’ Experiences in Regional Settings in Australia

Silke Meyer and Rose-Marie Stambe - Journal of Interpersonal Violence


Domestic and family violence (DFV) disproportionately affects women and children in Australia and globally. On average, one in three women experiences DFV during adulthood and the majority of these women identify as mothers. The prevalence of DFV is higher for Indigenous women and their experiences disproportionately range at the more severe end of physical abuse. For women affected by DFV, mothering during and post this type of victimization is complicated by strategic entrapment, undermining of the mother–child relationship, and threats of harm directed at children and mothers. While a substantial body of literature has examined the experiences of mothers affected by DFV more broadly, research on the experiences of Indigenous mothers affected by DFV remains scarce. Research evidence is further limited when trying to understand the specific constraints experienced by mothers affected by DFV in regional settings. This article examines the experiences of Indigenous and non-Indigenous mothers affected by DFV in regional Queensland, Australia. Data derived from 17 qualitative face-to-face interviews are used to explore the lived experiences of these mothers. Findings identify the immediate and long-term effects of DFV on mothers and children, including similarities and differences in women’s experiences of mothering in the context of DFV, experiences of entrapment in an abusive relationship, experiences of post-separation abuse, strategies used to mitigate its impact on children, and surviving as a female-headed single-parent household in regional settings. While mothers in this study shared a number of similar experiences, regionality, the risk of cultural disconnectedness, and socio-structural marginalization disproportionately affected Indigenous mothers in this study. Findings raise key implications for supporting mothers and children’s safety and recovery, access to safe and sustainable housing in regional towns, and the empowerment of Indigenous women to overcome the lasting effects of colonization and disproportionate experiences of disadvantage.