The Aboriginal Justice Caucus have developed their long-term priorities for realising Aboriginal self-determination in the justice system. This work acknowledges that Aboriginal self-determination is not a new concept in Victoria with communities and individuals involved in an ongoing struggle for the right to self-determine their lives, shape their communities and ensure the wellbeing of future generations.
In relation to the justice system, the concept of self-determination has been enshrined in previous Aboriginal Justice Agreements, reflecting recommendations from the RCIADIC which identified the empowerment of Aboriginal communities and the associated right to self-determination as critical to realising meaningful change in Aboriginal justice outcomes.
In developing Burra Lotjpa Dunguludja, the Aboriginal Justice Caucus’ long-term aspiration for self-determination within the justice system could eventually see the Aboriginal community set the agenda in relation to providing a culturally-responsive justice system for Aboriginal people. The Victorian Government acknowledges that “Aboriginal people in Victoria are the people best placed to know what works when it comes to achieving better outcomes for their own communities”[i].
In the context of the Victorian justice system, this relates to the aspiration of the Aboriginal community to:
- determine goals and aspirations for that system as it applies to Aboriginal people;
- set the direction for government policy and programs as they apply to Aboriginal people’s interaction with the justice system;
- hold governments to account against benchmarks set by the Aboriginal community
- establish justice institutions to exercise self-determination.[ii]
The characteristics of self-determination include:
- community control over design, process and preferred outcomes
- cultural leadership and authority
- systems, services and programs reflecting community values
- a holistic approach to wellbeing and healing
- jurisdictional influence
- focusing on outcomes rather than outputs
- flexibility in resourcing and time to grow and evolve
- high levels of competence and capacity
- realistic targets and control over parameters of evaluation processes[iii].
Embedding self-determination in the core business of justice agencies requires change in order to transfer power, decision-making and resources to the Aboriginal community. Taking the first steps toward transitioning to greater Aboriginal authority is a crucial aim of this Agreement.
[i] Department of Premier and Cabinet, 2016, Victorian Government Aboriginal Affairs Report, Victoria State Government. p.10.
[ii] Department of Justice and Regulation, 2017, Self-Determination within the Justice Context, Victoria State Government, prepared by Behrendt L, Jorgensen M, Vivian A Jumbunna Institute for Indigenous Education and Research, University of Technology Sydney., pp.3
[iii] ibid, pp.5-6.