This Strategy is accompanied by a set of guiding principles that has informed its development and will help to achieve our vision. These principles are underpinned by, and informed by self-determination and guide all the Strategy’s actions.

These principles are centred around:

  • amplifying Aboriginal children and young people’s voice and participation
  • Aboriginal cultural values and connection
  • valuing the strengths of Aboriginal children and young people
  • supporting child and family centred approaches
  • embedding trauma informed healing approaches
  • promoting and protecting Aboriginal children and young people’s rights.

How we work together will be guided by the partnership principles and ways of working set out in Burra Lotjpa Dunguludja (AJA4) (Appendix 1).

Amplifying Aboriginal children and young people’s voice and participation

From the start, the Aboriginal Justice Caucus has asserted the importance of amplifying the voice of Aboriginal children and young people involved with the youth justice system and ensuring their lived experience is reflected on every page – in their words, the Strategy must:

Ensure that the young voices who are silenced by incarceration and stigma are heard, valued and acted upon to lead the next generation.[3]

This also reflects the work of the Koorie Youth Council and their groundbreaking report Ngaga-dji. Aboriginal children and young people with lived experience of the youth justice system have been engaged in the Strategy’s development, their experiences and needs have shaped its vision and actions.

Aboriginal cultural values and connection

Culture keeps me afloat, keeps me alive. 

- Ngaga-dji participant

 

Aboriginal cultural values and concepts of individual and collective wellbeing are key to this Strategy. Aboriginal people come from the oldest continuous culture in the world, unbroken for 65,000 years. As the Koorie Youth Council observed in Ngaga-dji (hear me):

Strong connections with culture, family, Elders and communities are the foundations that enable Aboriginal children to live happy, healthy lives. By embedding the strengths of our culture, family, Elders and communities in solutions, we can address the disadvantage that leads many children into the quicksand of the justice system.[4]

Aboriginal children and young people who take pride in their culture, who are confident in their identity and connected to their families, communities and country are resilient and strong. Our work focuses on the vital role of connecting young people to country, culture, and community in addressing offending behaviour.

Valuing the strengths of Aboriginal children and young people

This institutional view sees kids as problems and issues, not as the future of our communities.

– Aboriginal Peak Body and Representative Group

 

This Strategy respects and values the strengths and resilience of Aboriginal children and young people. Fundamental to this is that Aboriginal children and young people are seen for who they are – future leaders - and beyond their offences. It works towards restoring the wellbeing of Aboriginal children and young people and their relationships with their families and communities, ensuring they have the knowledge, skills, and tools that they need to thrive, and that they are supported to take responsibility for their actions.

Supporting child and family centred approaches

My honest belief is, if we don’t work with the family, we can’t get to the young people.

– Aboriginal Community-based Service Provider

 

Families are at the heart of Aboriginal culture and communities. They are the foundation to a young person’s sense of identity and social and emotional wellbeing, and the primary source of love, care, protection and belonging. Aboriginal children and young people with strong families will be strong in their identity, with the necessary supports to thrive.

This Strategy has a deliberate focus on supporting and empowering families to put in place interventions and supports needed to reduce offending and improve wellbeing. Families will be supported to walk alongside the Aboriginal children and young person through every stage of the justice process and be part of their healing journey.

Embedding trauma informed healing approaches

The impact of the stolen generations is still there. It’s as relevant now as it was 30 or 40 years ago.

- Aboriginal Community-based Service Provider

To address their offending, we might have to first address their victimization.

- Aboriginal Community-based Service Provider

Furthering self-determination also requires addressing the legacy of colonisation including the impacts of intergenerational trauma which adversely impact the lives of Aboriginal children and young people and increases their vulnerability to justice system contact. The Strategy recognises the need for therapeutic trauma informed healing responses to address the many co-occurring issues that drive Aboriginal children and young people’s contact with the youth justice system.

Promoting and protecting Aboriginal children and young people’s rights

Racism. That’s the elephant in the room. It’s still there.

– Aboriginal Community-based Service Provider

 

Aboriginal children and young people are deeply affected by systemic racism, which impacts their interactions both inside and outside of the justice system. The persistent over-representation of Aboriginal children and young people in the youth justice system and the discrepancies in a wide array of justice and other social outcomes points to the continued effects of these system biases.

Some justice policies, legislation and practices have disproportionate and often unintended consequences for Aboriginal people and their families, deepening and further entrenching justice system involvement. This Strategy continues the work committed to in Burra Lotjpa Dunguludja (AJA4) to identify and respond to these system biases to address over-representation and ensure a fair and equitable justice system.

 

End notes

[3] Weinstein, L (2018), Outlook on an Aboriginal Youth Justice Strategy: outcomes and aspirations for a self-determined justice response, The Australian Centre for Social Innovation (TACSI) prepared for the Aboriginal Justice Caucus and the Department of Justice and Community Safety

[4] Koorie Youth Council, 2018, Ngaga-dji (Hear Me): young voices creating change for justice. (p 42).