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‘Do recent Aboriginal justice initiatives in Australia facilitate healing for Aboriginal people and communities?’

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Presentation on theme: "‘Do recent Aboriginal justice initiatives in Australia facilitate healing for Aboriginal people and communities?’"— Presentation transcript:

1 ‘Do recent Aboriginal justice initiatives in Australia facilitate healing for Aboriginal people and communities?’

2  History of Aboriginal people & justice agencies  Aboriginal offending & victimisation data  Aboriginal crime risk factors  Understanding ‘healing’  Circle Sentencing – does it support healing?

3 Police ‘acted as the most consistent point of Aboriginal contact with colonial power’ (Cunneen 2001:49).

4  Bourke 1980s – 1 to 142 citizens  (Carrington 1990)  Wilcannia 1980s/90s – 1 to to 77 citizens  (RCIADIC 1992)  NSW average – 1 to 432 citizens  (Carrington 1990)

5  ‘Aboriginal people in Australia are among the most imprisoned people in the world’  (Blagg 2008:1).

6  During Indigenous Australians aged 10 and over were 7.5 times more likely than non-Indigenous Australians to be charged by police (ABS 2010).  During Indigenous young people aged 10 to 17 were more than 20 times more likely to be in detention and 14 times more likely to be under community based supervision than non-Indigenous peers (AIHW 2009).

7  AIC - Indigenous Australians 15 to 20 times more likely than non-Indigenous people to commit violent offences (Wundersitz 2010:iii).  NSW Aboriginal people five times more likely to be convicted for murder or robbery, three times more likely to be convicted for sexual assault or child sexual assault and six times more likely to be implicated in assault (DV or other) and motor vehicle theft.( Fitzgerald & Weatherburn 2001)

8  BOCSAR - NSW Aboriginal females four times more likely to be a victim of murder or assault (DV or other), more than twice as likely to be a victim of sexual assault (adult or child) and seven times more likely to experience grievous bodily harm than a non-Aboriginal female.  BOCSAR - in cases where a victim of violence in NSW was Aboriginal, the offender was also Aboriginal in four of seven murders, 73% of sexual assaults, 72% of child sexual assaults, 85% of domestic assaults, 80% of assaults and 86% of assault occasioning grievous bodily harm  (Fitzgerald and Weatherburn 2001).

9  Gender, age, alcohol (Weatherburn et al 2008;  Wundersitz 2010)  Child abuse, neglect, mental health, psychological stress, welfare dependence (Weatherburn et al 2008;Wundersitz 2010)  Member of Stolen Generations (Homel et al 1999; Zubrick et al 2005; Dodson & Hunter 2006; Weatherburn et al 2008)

10  The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Women’s Taskforce on Violence Report (ATSIWTFV 2000) identifies a link between intergenerational trauma and violence and recommended support for localised healing programs  The Victorian Indigenous Family Violence Taskforce Report (2003) identified grief and trauma, drug abuse, institutionalisation and child removal polices as contributing to family violence. It recommends support for holistic healing.  The West Australian Aboriginal Child Health Survey (Zubrick et al 2004) found the intergenerational effects of child removal included emotional and behavioural problems, overuse of alcohol and an increased risk of being arrested.

11  The Aboriginal Child Sexual Assault Taskforce attributed high rates of child sexual abuse to trauma, grief and loss stemming from colonisation, dispossession and child removal policies and related subsequent substance abuse, disadvantage and exposure to violence. The report identifies a need for healing.’ (ACSAT 2006)   The Northern Territory Board of Inquiry into the Protection of Aboriginal Children From Sexual Abuse report ‘Little Children Are Sacred’ suggests communities should be supported to design responses that improve emotional and mental wellbeing. (2007)

12  An essential element of Indigenous healing is recognising the interconnections between, and effects of, violence, social and economic disadvantage, racism and dispossession from land and culture on Indigenous peoples, families and communities.”  (ATSISJC 2004:57).

13  ‘a spiritual process that includes addictions recovery, therapeutic change and cultural renewal’ (ATSIHFDT 2009:4).  ‘healing is holistic and involves physical, social, emotional, mental, environmental and spiritual wellbeing’ (ATSIHFDT 2009:11).

14  Maari Ma Community Safety Research Project  Muramali program – Stolen Generations  Rekindling the Spirit - spiritual, emotional, sexual and physical healing  Red Dust Healing – healing effects of colonisation on mental, physical and spiritual wellbeing of Indigenous families

15  South Australia – Nunga court  NSW – Circle Sentencing  Victoria – Koori Court  QLD – Murri Court  WA – Aboriginal Community Courts

16  Options for adult offenders who plead or are found guilty in local court  Eligible cases referred by Magistrate  Aboriginal Community Justice Group assess suitability  Circle convened with Magistrate, Elders, victim, offender, police and others- Elders recommend sentence

17  To include members of Aboriginal communities in the sentencing process  To increase the confidence of Aboriginal communities in the sentencing process  To reduce barriers between Aboriginal communities and the courts  To provide more appropriate sentencing options for Aboriginal offenders

18  To provide effective support to victims of offences by Aboriginal offenders  To provide for the greater participation of Aboriginal offenders and their victims in the sentencing process  To increase the awareness of Aboriginal offenders of the consequences of their offences on their victims and the Aboriginal communities to which they belong  To reduce recidivism in Aboriginal communities.

19  ‘Circle Sentencing has no effect on the frequency, timing or seriousness of offending’  The program was not designed to ‘change the characteristics of offenders that are associated with their criminal activity’- seeks to reduce re-offending by ‘giving Aboriginal people direct involvement in the sentencing of Aboriginal offenders’.  (Fitzgerald 2008)

20  ‘Victims indicated that Circle Sentencing potentially plays a role in empowerment, healing and reconciliatory processes of forgiveness’ (CIRCA 2008:47).  ‘In normal court you don’t know what’s going on. Your lawyer stands up and the Magistrate deals with them and when they finish talking you get taken outside and told what the decision was and what would happen next’ (CIRCA 2008:38).

21  ‘I was honest out of respect for the Elders and they were faces that I knew’ (CIRCA 2008:38).  ‘Now a lot of Elders are watching out for their people and offenders are aware that the Elders are watching over them’ (CIRCA 2008:65).

22  ‘If it strengthens the informal social controls that exist in Aboriginal communities, Circle Sentencing may have a crime prevention value that cannot be quantified through immediate changes in the risk of reoffending for individuals’ (Fitzgerald 2008:7).

23  ‘I keep my word to the Elder and I still keep it to this day. Because I live in town with my aunties, I show respect to them, I owe them. When at Local Court I never saw the magistrate except in court, but I see my aunties every day. I can’t muck up because I will lose respect. You get a fella that’s been to jail over and over, he’ll just say stick it to you. But with your aunt, you put your head down to say sorry for what I’ve done’ (CIRCA 2008:65).

24  ‘Restoring Aboriginal communities is a long-term process which requires a holistic approach. It involves addressing injustices, promoting healing by breaking cycles of dysfunction and reconnecting Aboriginal people to their culture’  (Cox, Young & Bairnsfather-Scott 2009). 

25  ‘Unless non-criminogenic needs such as grief, depression, spiritual healing, loss of culture and educational deficits are addressed, it may be impossible to address needs directly related to criminal offending’  (Gilbert & Wilson 2009:4).

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