Our vision is that Aboriginal children and young people are not in the youth justice system. This is because they are strong in their culture, connected to families and communities, and living healthy, safe, resilient, thriving and culturally rich lives.
Creating a future narrative for Aboriginal Youth Justice: a visual representation
Our vision and approach are best represented by the following art work from Kiewa Tya Austin-Rioli.
Kiewa Tya Austin-Rioli Sweet Water Art
I am a proud Gunditjmara and Tiwi Islander woman.
I have loved art since I was little and in the past year have been exploring the digital art space. I have always been able to take a story and turn it into art and that is exactly what I have done with the artworks for these art pieces.
After meetings with the Aboriginal Youth Justice team about what kind of story they wanted to present, I sat down for hours planning and designing a piece that I thought would represent all the messages they wanted to show. Through this process I was constantly reflecting back on my life and thinking about my family and friends that I have seen go through the justice system and what they experienced.
I wanted to highlight that their journey through all of this is not an easy one but there are a lot of support networks along the way that can help young people get out of the cycle and heal.
I also wanted to emphasise that there are layers of support for each person and although their support networks may be different there is always a network there for someone. Additionally, the colour palette is natural and promotes a sense of healing rather than being bold or colourful.
An Aboriginal young person stands on Country. They are surrounded by a support network, as represented by the four elements inside the circle. The symbols (clockwise from North) represent their family, their culture, their community, and the Justice system and all its connections. The supports do not function in isolation, nor does one outweigh another, but rather they intertwine and intermingle (represented by the cross-hatching) to provide whole, holistic support to a child as they grow.
This means that if a child comes into contact with the youth justice system, they are provided with support from the system, but this support works in conjunction and is balanced with support from the other entities. This support, provided by the four elements, protect and nurture a child (represented by the bold line and outer circle).
Handprints in the background highlight the support network’s role in guiding, supporting and building strength in a child.
An Aboriginal young person in their circle of support is surrounded by an additional layer. The design inside the outer circle represents the different groups within community that can support a child. These groups can work together to support, protect, and empower a child to help them grow strong and flourish.
In the context of an Aboriginal-led youth justice system, they provide a child with what they need to heal, grow and learn, connect with others and find belonging, and to be strong in their culture and identity. These community groups may differ depending on the young person’s journey and therefore they do not represent a singular entity.
An Aboriginal young person and their layers of support are shown in the centre of the artwork. Surrounding them is a series of connecting circles and lines that represent a young person’s journey through the youth justice system. Each circle represents a different stage of their journey through the youth justice system. At each circle, a trail of footprints leads them back to their support network, representing the pathways and ‘off-ramps’ that the future system will provide for young people to be supported by their network. At each circle, or stage in the system, there are a number of people that support that young person.
As a young person gets further along in their journey, these pathways get longer, and the number of supports involved increase. This highlights the notion that the further along in the justice system a young person is, the harder it is and the longer it takes to get out and back to community. The lines that connect the stages of the system are jagged and represent the tough journey young people endure when they go through the system. The shields symbolise community protecting the young person from re-entering the youth justice system, while the gum leaves around the outside represent the healing process.