In his foreword to the #JustJustice book, which he will launch on Sunday, Professor Tom Calma AO urges politicians and policy makers to stop the unacceptable over-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the justice system.
Tom Calma writes:
In Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander affairs we are continually exposed to the horrendous statistics of the disadvantage Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people experience across the board and of the mainstream media who portray us as a failed peoples.
Government Ministers are notorious in talking about failed experiments, cultural museums, lifestyle choices, the high expenditure on Indigenous affairs and our burden on society – all of which generally portrays a negative and deficit viewpoint about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
Ministers and senior bureaucrats rarely reflect on their role or accept, as numerous independent reports have highlighted, that they are often the key contributors to the state of Indigenous affairs.
Their imposed policies and programs that have not been developed in consultation or collaboration with affected persons, their regular restructuring of programs and short-sighted funding arrangements and their lack of engagement with Indigenous peoples’ peak body have significantly contributed to the state of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ advancement.
The blame game has to stop and we must all be active and willing partners in determining the strategies and pathways that must be taken if we are to realise positive and sustainable changes.
The first step is to respect and value the contribution of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the journey.
Secondly, we need to develop long term generational plans and strategies, and fund them appropriately. Thirdly, they must enjoy multi-party support and they must survive political and ministerial terms to give confidence to the community and to the bureaucrats who areadministering the programs.
Finally, research and best practices, both domestically and internationally, must influence the way forward.
Stories for change
The fantastic collection of ideas recorded in this very important book addresses many of the principles I have cited.
When considered in conjunction with Chapter 2 of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Report 2009 and the Senate’s Legal and Constitutional Affairs References Committee’s 2013 Report titled “Value of a justice reinvestment approach to criminal justice in Australia”, we will understand that solutions are within our grasp if politicians have the courage and willingness to embrace them.
The unacceptable over-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in juvenile and adult corrections centres in all jurisdictions has given rise to a collaborative social journalism project, #JustJustice, to agitate for change through sharing stories that promote public awareness and action.
This book highlights and recognises the foundational work of the many human rights and social justice advocates, be they individuals, communities and organisations, who have the vision and courage required to make a difference and it is now time for politicians and policy makers to join us to address this national crisis.
One very important solution would be to implement a justice reinvestment approach.
I urge you to read the stories [in the book] and join us in the fight for a fair and just Australia.
• Professor Tom Calma AO is a Justice Reinvestment advocate, and Chancellor of the University of Canberra. Read more here.
You can read more than 90 #JustJustice articles published to date here.
Croakey acknowledges and thanks all those who donated to support #JustJustice (see their names here). We also thank and acknowledge our premium sponsors, the Jesuit Social Services, and Frank Meany of One Vision.