Catholic Social Services Victoria (CSSV) over many years has decried the over-incarceration of Aboriginal young people in Victorian jails, and advocated for youth justice system reform, alongside systemic changes that reduce the overt racial discrimination directed towards Aboriginal young people (and their parents) in everyday life, alongside better social and community supports that can build on the evident strength and resilience and immense capacity of Aboriginal young people.
We lament the treatment of First Peoples since the creation of Australia first took possession of lands that have been occupied by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples for thousands of years. We acknowledge the deep pain that has been inflicted over many generations, including racist government policies and public attitudes, and corresponding loss and disruption of culture and connection with land, stolen generations and genocidal acts. We acknowledge our own place within this horrific past — the 5th Plenary Council of Australia’s statement Reconciliation: Healing Wounds, Receiving Gifts accepts that “The Catholic Church in Australia has been caught up in this history of dispossession, Stolen Generations, racism, and the undermining of language and culture”.
We believe that recognition of the past and ongoing listening are essential in taking meaningful steps towards real reconciliation that can lead to healing and renewed way of relating to each other and the country we all now share. We believe truth telling processes will be challenging but bring great enrichment and benefit for all who live in Australia – be it newly arrived migrants, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, or those who have been born in Australia since colonisation.
CSSV sees great value in the work of the Yoorrook Justice Commission and is grateful for the opportunity to make this submission to assist the Commission in its works to shine a light on systemic injustice in the youth justice system and their causes, alongside examples of good practice that could be adopted or expanded to address systemic injustice here in Victoria, with the hope that these make definite movements towards justice and reconciliation.
This submission highlights some recommendations previously made to the Victorian Government and relevant parliamentary inquiries, and notes the published and consulted views of a number of our member organisations who work in the youth and youth justice space, who also accompany and serve Aboriginal young people and their families.
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