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Reducing Indigenous over-representation in the justice system

johnboy 3 August 2010 144

Yesterday Simon Corbell announced he had signed an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Justice Agreement with the ACT Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Elected Body.

(It might surprise you to learn we have an ACT Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Elected Body, which might have something to do with them managing to put out one media release in the last two and a bit years.)

Chairperson of the ACT Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Elected Body, Terry Williams, said Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people account for 1.2% of ACT residents and approximately 10% of people in the ACT criminal justice system.

“The actions outlined in the agreement demonstrate an ongoing commitment in the ACT to address the over-representation of our people in the criminal justice system, and brings together the efforts of ACT Government agencies and the local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community to get serious and do something about it,” Mr Williams said.

Efforts in health, housing, education and employment are intended to address this issue.


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Special G Special G 11:16 pm 17 Aug 10

Kuku – You seem to be informed about the organisations out there to assist the community so tell us your solution.

There are several hundred support organisations (govt and non-govt) in the ACT across every minority group and I would be very surprised if someone knew of all of them.

Kuku Kuku 7:17 pm 17 Aug 10

buzz819 said :

Kuku said :

AJC = Aboriginal Justice Centre.
Perhaps you need a course in whats out there to try and assist you???

How hard is it for you to answer the basic question? If you don’t know then feel free to say you don’t know.

What basic differences are there in the ACT between the welfare available to indigenous and non-indigenous persons?

Instead of saying someone should do a course, which you appear to be an expert in, just answer the question, or people, including me, will continue to believe that your stories and judgments are conceived in a time that is 10 years out of date.

No, you’re right and I should have not been so blunt, but I really would have expected law enforcement officials here in the ACT to know what is out there to help them. I was terribly disappointed at the launch of the ACT Aboriginal Services Directory there were no uniformed AFP reps – that says a lot about engagement. But trying to make judgements about the wider community and Indigenous community are not helpful – hell I think I said in an earlier post that I was told my son was failing because he was Indigenous? Duh – what about that he was lazy or had a learning problem or that his teacher in that year spent a majority of it away…..And no my judgements are not 10 years out of date, as I said I am only telling my own stories – which are 10 years out of date 😉 but my engagement and involvement is not. What is important is that there are organisations in the ACT who want to help, who are desperate to help and try and engage…..and it’s not happening except for a few dedicated officers.

Thumper Thumper 4:53 pm 17 Aug 10

What VG said, oh, and the minor issue of 40+k years of archeological evidence.

vg vg 4:27 pm 17 Aug 10

CraigT said :

vg said :

No proof ‘they’ were here first? You are kidding, please tell me. How about the records that non-indigenous explorers have of our country right back to the mid 1600s or so where the aforementioned explorers reported inhabitants that were here.

And what, precisely, do those records say about anybody being here “first”?

Interesting to see the shallow-thinkers accusing others of being “ill-informed”.

I gather you’re not splitting atoms in your daily employ.

I will explain it in simple language.

Explorers come here in 16-1700s

On arrival they see indigenous natives.

They note it,

No other culture or race indicates a pre-dating of the aforementioned indigenous natives.

Logical extrapolation would suggest what?

a) Someone being here ‘first’ or least before anyone else cares to claim
b) I can’t understand as the blood that rushes to my neck restricts the bloodflow to my brain; or
c) 42

I’d prefer my logic to be thought of as shallow by yourself. The rest of us think you’re plain imbecillic.

As for the precision of what the documents say, well I don’t speak Dutch, but I’d suggest you amply partake in Amsterdam’s ‘finest’ based on your deductive powers

sirocco sirocco 12:44 pm 17 Aug 10

georgesgenitals said :

sirocco said :

Yes, non-Indigenous people make up the other 90% in the ACT criminal justice system but given non-Indigenous people make up more than 98% of the population overall then surely we (non-Indigenous Australians) are doing well! We don’t need any special inquiries as to how non-Indigenous people are doing. We are fine.

While I agree with most of you post, I have to say that marginalised non-indigenous probably need just as much help. It’s just harder because we can’t differentiate as easily, and marginalised people represent a smaller proportion of non-indigenous people. Perhaps an explanation is that if we target groups of different race or background, we can tailor the programs to be more effective. And I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that, provided we remember it’s not just indigenous people who need assistance.

Yeah, fair enough – it was a pretty broad, sweeping claim. Of course we should be doing things like looking to limit drug use within prisons, try to prevent the spread of HIV and Hep C as well as address the alarming rate of mentally ill in prisons but if we are looking at these sorts of things then we should probably also be looking at an over-representation of Indigenous in the justice system too.

fgzk fgzk 11:17 am 17 Aug 10

“Committing offences in aboriginal culture used to get you speared in the leg – should this system of punishment return?”

You asked a question above like it is a fact. Is leg spearing part of the Ngunnawal peoples culture. They might find it offensive. Part of the culture from the desert. I don’t know. Its an emotive question designed to challenge my sense of white justice. It lumps diverse cultures into one belief that may not have anything to do with the culture from this land. The question is pretty offensive because its not a question more propaganda to support your own self interest and power. Do you get that?

Maybe we should ask the Ngunnawal elders what there cultural beliefs about punishment are. Then you might have a better idea if they could be useful.

georgesgenitals georgesgenitals 10:59 am 17 Aug 10

sirocco said :

Yes, non-Indigenous people make up the other 90% in the ACT criminal justice system but given non-Indigenous people make up more than 98% of the population overall then surely we (non-Indigenous Australians) are doing well! We don’t need any special inquiries as to how non-Indigenous people are doing. We are fine.

While I agree with most of you post, I have to say that marginalised non-indigenous probably need just as much help. It’s just harder because we can’t differentiate as easily, and marginalised people represent a smaller proportion of non-indigenous people. Perhaps an explanation is that if we target groups of different race or background, we can tailor the programs to be more effective. And I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that, provided we remember it’s not just indigenous people who need assistance.

justin heywood justin heywood 10:39 am 17 Aug 10

The indigenous footballer David Wirrpanda was filmed addressing a group of indigenous high school students on the weekend. By way of encouragement, he said to them:

‘there’s a hell of a lot of white fellas out there who think you’re all gonna fail’.

While I don’t doubt that this is done with the best intentions, this just perpetuates the ‘us against them’ mentality – as if the best motivation for success is to stick one up the racist whites.

Far better (and more accurate in my view) to say ‘while there are a few ratbags in this country, most white people want you to do well, and there IS support out there if you are willing to give it a go’.

sirocco sirocco 10:12 am 17 Aug 10

Special G said :

I won’t actively treat someone better just because they are a certain race – and I will make no excuses for doing so.

I will actively target my clientelle regardless of what race they are. The stats suggest that 10% of my clientelle are indigenous.

The issue is not whether you treat your clientelle any differently, of course you shouldn’t.

The OP is more a question of “what policies can be introduced to help prevent groups within our society committing crime in the first place?”

Once you start thinking about how the police are involved it is usually way too late to prevent people from being in a situation where they are likely to commit crimes – they most likely will anyway at that stage and the police are there to charge them when they do. (which is what police are meant to do)

But you can see that there is an over-representation of Indigenous people in our justice system and we should be considering why it is so that Indigenous people are 8.33 times more likely to commit crimes in the ACT. Is there something that the government can do to help prevent this.

What if you took the word “indigenous” out and put in the words “mentally handicapped” or “blind” or “people with Dr Who paraphanalia”? There would be an outrage (or, in the case of the latter, at the very least a bit of curiosity)

Yes, non-Indigenous people make up the other 90% in the ACT criminal justice system but given non-Indigenous people make up more than 98% of the population overall then surely we (non-Indigenous Australians) are doing well! We don’t need any special inquiries as to how non-Indigenous people are doing. We are fine.

Special G Special G 8:57 am 17 Aug 10

fgzk said :

I understand why its so important to stay in school, get a job, buy a house, work all your life building up stuff and die leaving a legacy for your children. What I don’t understand is why we can’t except that there might be another way to live. There might be other ways to view our time in this body. There might be other ways to view the land we walk on beside its cash value or what can be earned from it. Why is it so hard to accept another view? Why does it so threaten our society? Why do we actively want to destroy/imprison all other world views other than our western Christian culture? What is it that scares us so much about aboriginal culture? Why do we demand that it be abandoned in favour of getting a job, buying a house and getting stuff?

If respect is a two way street, then why is it that we can’t see how our own actions and beliefs are so deeply disrespectful?

You are throwing out a lot of questions there without any suggestions on how to improve the situation. Facts are that Australia is a western culture – most of the world is and traditional indigenous cultures are for the most part extinct in their original form.

You make reference to abandoning a culture in favour of getting a job, buying a house etc – there are a large percentage of the indigenous community who manage to acheive combining their culture whilst living in a modern western culture – all without committing crimes.

Committing offences in aboriginal culture used to get you speared in the leg – should this system of punishment return?

Sirocco “Imagine if everyone had the same attitude towards Indigenous people that Special G does: which appears to be “I am actively not going to treat them any better than anyone else because they are no different and I think they are getting it too good anyway”

I won’t actively treat someone better just because they are a certain race – and I will make no excuses for doing so.

I will actively target my clientelle regardless of what race they are. The stats suggest that 10% of my clientelle are indigenous.

fgzk fgzk 11:53 am 16 Aug 10

JH…”Does the ‘other’ value system you speak of view theft, drugs and violence as acceptable? This is generally why people are being locked up.”

You would have to ask the “others” that question.

If I was to answer the question for our culture, then what is acceptable would depend on how much land, resources, money and weapons you control. The “others” get to die, be imprisoned or convert. Sound familiar.

sepi sepi 11:01 am 16 Aug 10

One big issue is generational poverty. It is hard to finish school if your parents didn’t. LIkewise gettinga job, buying a house etc. These things are normal for most of us. But if noone in your circle acts like this, it is very hard (and unusual) to suddenly decide to finish school and get a job.

georgesgenitals georgesgenitals 10:14 am 16 Aug 10

fgzk said :

I understand why its so important to stay in school, get a job, buy a house, work all your life building up stuff and die leaving a legacy for your children. What I don’t understand is why we can’t except that there might be another way to live. There might be other ways to view our time in this body. There might be other ways to view the land we walk on beside its cash value or what can be earned from it. Why is it so hard to accept another view? Why does it so threaten our society? Why do we actively want to destroy/imprison all other world views other than our western Christian culture? What is it that scares us so much about aboriginal culture? Why do we demand that it be abandoned in favour of getting a job, buying a house and getting stuff?

You pose some interesting questions here. I wonder whether the domination of some cultures by others (eg western cultures dominating indigenous cultures) is more a symptom of the culture itself, due to the way it has been formed. There are plenty of individuals who would wish for cultures to be preserved and studied, and yet this seems to be a real struggle. In terms of philosophy I’m well out of my depth here, but I wonder at what point the culture of a collective group of individuals starts to form its own system, outside the control of an individual (or even a subset of individuals).

Back to earth, and many of the issues faced by local indigenous people still seem to me to be more aligned with those of poverty than of race itself. But to get back to fgzk’s questions:

“What is it that scares us so much about aboriginal culture? Why do we demand that it be abandoned in favour of getting a job, buying a house and getting stuff?”

I wonder whether it is possible for the two to co-exist in their original forms – history suggests not. I don’t think the issue is that people are ‘scared’ of Aboriginal culture, more that they don’t know how it could co-exist with modern western culture in a way that is positive and meaningful. Personally, I’ve got no issue if someone doesn’t want a job and house, and can support how they choose to live. But I do have an issue with ensuring children growing up in such an environment still get adequate health care, and are afforded opportunities to make their own choices as and when the time is right.

justin heywood justin heywood 9:48 am 16 Aug 10

fgzk said :

I understand why its so important to stay in school, get a job, buy a house, work all your life building up stuff and die leaving a legacy for your children. What I don’t understand is why we can’t except that there might be another way to live. There might be other ways to view our time in this body. There might be other ways to view the land we walk on beside its cash value or what can be earned from it. Why is it so hard to accept another view? Why does it so threaten our society? Why do we actively want to destroy/imprison all other world views other than our western Christian culture? What is it that scares us so much about aboriginal culture? Why do we demand that it be abandoned in favour of getting a job, buying a house and getting stuff?

If respect is a two way street, then why is it that we can’t see how our own actions and beliefs are so deeply disrespectful?

Well fgzk, that all sounds reasonable, but how about you put some meat on your argument instead of talking in abstractions. This is/was a thread about crime. Does the ‘other’ value system you speak of view theft, drugs and violence as acceptable? This is generally why people are being locked up.

sirocco sirocco 9:26 am 16 Aug 10

And I would go further and postulate that these attitudes and feeling if isolation combined with already being in a lower socio-economic group might lead to depression, alcoholism and other substance abuse, compounding their difficulties in getting jobs, education, housing, improved health etc and might lead to higher suicide rates and probably an increased likelihood that they’ll turn to crime.

I would hope that the ACT Gov is suggesting an inquiry as to why all this is happening (if it is, but it seems to be because we have an overrepresentation of Indigenous Australians in our justice system)

fgzk fgzk 9:10 am 16 Aug 10

I understand why its so important to stay in school, get a job, buy a house, work all your life building up stuff and die leaving a legacy for your children. What I don’t understand is why we can’t except that there might be another way to live. There might be other ways to view our time in this body. There might be other ways to view the land we walk on beside its cash value or what can be earned from it. Why is it so hard to accept another view? Why does it so threaten our society? Why do we actively want to destroy/imprison all other world views other than our western Christian culture? What is it that scares us so much about aboriginal culture? Why do we demand that it be abandoned in favour of getting a job, buying a house and getting stuff?

If respect is a two way street, then why is it that we can’t see how our own actions and beliefs are so deeply disrespectful?

sirocco sirocco 9:08 am 16 Aug 10

What is different about access for Indigenous people in the ACT? I would say a big difference is the general community’s attitude towards them.

Imagine if everyone had the same attitude towards Indigenous people that Special G does: which appears to be “I am actively not going to treat them any better than anyone else because they are no different and I think they are getting it too good anyway”

Result: you are already treating them differently and chances are you are increasing their apparent (and probably actual) isolation within Canberra.

Now imagine if they treated that way when applying for jobs, going to the doctor, getting scripts filled at the chemist, looking to rent a house, attending school, etc.

Non-Indigenous Australians and especially those of European background have it far easier – we don’t have to deal with this sort of racism on a day to day basis. And it is racism, you can tell when people start sentences with “I’m not a racist but…”

And it appears from some of the quotes on this forum that attitudes here in Canberra are no different from those in the rest of the country.

buzz819 buzz819 8:47 am 16 Aug 10

Kuku said :

AJC = Aboriginal Justice Centre.
Perhaps you need a course in whats out there to try and assist you???

How hard is it for you to answer the basic question? If you don’t know then feel free to say you don’t know.

What basic differences are there in the ACT between the welfare available to indigenous and non-indigenous persons?

Instead of saying someone should do a course, which you appear to be an expert in, just answer the question, or people, including me, will continue to believe that your stories and judgments are conceived in a time that is 10 years out of date.

Special G Special G 7:35 am 16 Aug 10

I was making reference to things which would cause more aboriginals to make the choice to commit offences bringing them into the justice system – the topic – which I think you may have failed to mention in any of your posts – try going to the top and reading it again.

Canberra has access to health, schooling, govt services, welfare services, community organisations/programs, housing, parks, employment.

so try again.

CraigT CraigT 7:27 am 16 Aug 10

vg said :

No proof ‘they’ were here first? You are kidding, please tell me. How about the records that non-indigenous explorers have of our country right back to the mid 1600s or so where the aforementioned explorers reported inhabitants that were here.

And what, precisely, do those records say about anybody being here “first”?

Interesting to see the shallow-thinkers accusing others of being “ill-informed”.

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