CEO of the Aboriginal Family Violence Legal Service Djirra and Kuku Yalanji woman Antoinette Braybrook has been awarded the 2022 Melburnian of the Year as recognition for her extensive advocacy in family violence prevention, and service to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island peoples over the last 20 years. The first Indigenous recipient of this award, Antoinette is also the Co-Chair of Change the Record and Co-Chair of the National Family Violence Prevention and Legal Services Forum, where she continues her work as one of the nation’s most renowned experts working in the family violence sector.
Antoinette Braybrook studied Law in the culturally contextualised setting of the Institute of Koorie Education (IKE), now known as the NIKERI Institute. Professor Fletcher said Ms Braybrook was an outstanding role model for current and former NIKERI students and the wider Deakin community. "We unequivocally celebrate all that Antoinette has achieved since graduating from Deakin. Antoinette is a tireless advocate for First Nation's communities and has made history as a result of her unrelenting activism," Professor Fletcher said. Antoinette said she was honoured to be recognised after working to combat family violence for the past two decades. "I will use the next 12 months to bring more attention to the systemic issues impacting Aboriginal women. I am hopeful the award will open doors and bring new opportunities for Djirra to finally implement our long-standing vision of an Aboriginal Women's Centre in Melbourne for all Aboriginal women in Victoria to access critical services for their safety," she said.
Ms Braybrook is a nationally recognised leader who works to improve investment in Aboriginal-led, self-determined solutions to end family violence against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women. A former employee of Victoria's Department of Justice, she kickstarted her advocacy work by establishing the inaugural Family Violence Prevention and Legal Service in Victoria, now known as Djirra. Previous Melburnian of the Year winners include outgoing Richmond Football Club President Peggy O'Neal AO and leading medical researcher Professor Doug Hilton AO. City of Melbourne Lord Mayor Sally Capp said there was "no greater honour" than to acknowledge the efforts of ordinary Melburnians doing extraordinary things. "Antoinette has made an insurmountable difference to our city and those in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community through her advocacy, care and passion for doing what matters," she said.
Antoinette was born in Victoria on Wurundjeri country and studied as a mature age student to become a lawyer. First working in Victoria’s Department of Justice on the Aboriginal justice agreement, she then advocated to establish an inaugural Family Violence Prevention and Legal Service in Victoria, which later become Djirra. Antoinette is the CEO of Djirra, a position she has held since the service was established in 2002. Djirra is an Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisation that provides holistic, culturally safe, legal and non-legal support to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who experience family violence – predominantly women. Djirra also designs and delivers important, community-based early intervention and prevention programs and undertakes policy and law reform work to improve access to justice, strengthen Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women’s resilience and reduce vulnerability to violence. Djirra finds solutions through Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women sharing their stories, journeys, and experiences.
Antoinette is also Co-Chair of the Change the Record Campaign, Australia’s only national First Nations led justice coalition of legal, health and family violence prevention experts. Antoinette’s advocacy work includes positions held on advisory groups, expert panels and consultative roles to State and Federal organisations. Among other awards, in 2020, Antoinette was inducted into the Victorian Honour Roll of Women and in 2022 is the recipient of the 2022 Australian Awards of Excellence in Women’s Leadership (Victorian recipient). As a highly regarded public speaker, she seeks to give a voice to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who have experienced family violence, Antoinette was honoured to jointly present with Special Rapporteur Rashida Manjo at the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women Conference in New York, March 2013. Antoinette has also been honoured on the Gender Justice Legacy wall in recognition for her contribution to advances in the gender justice field in celebration of 15 years of the ICC and 20 years since the adoption of the Rome Statute.
Attendance at the United Nations Human Rights Commission in Geneva in July 2019 provided Antoinette with the opportunity to advocate internationally on issues affecting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and their children. Djirra is a place where culture is shared and celebrated, and where practical support is available to all Aboriginal women and particularly to Aboriginal people who are currently experiencing family violence or have in the past. As most of our contact is with women, the work we do is predominantly designed by and for Aboriginal women.
We are an Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisation governed by an Aboriginal Board of Directors who are elected by our members. Our journey started in 2002 when we were established as the Aboriginal Family Violence Prevention & Legal Service (FVPLS Victoria). Since then we have grown, expanded our services, and evolved as an organisation, and now we are Djirra. Djirra is the Woiwurrung word for the reed used by Wurundjeri women for basket weaving. Traditionally, when women gathered to weave, important talks took place and problems were solved. Djirra symbolises Aboriginal women today, still coming together to share stories, support each other and find solutions.