Leigh Ritchie, Bunbury Mail, November 9, 2011
More action is needed to address the over representation of aboriginal youth in the criminal justice system and create champions in their families and communities.
The call is from a leading aboriginal agency which has spent 30 years in Bunbury trying to build the self worth and the strength of family units.
“We need action–we have all the research we need,” Goomburrup Aboriginal Corpor-ation manager Georgia Lewis said.
“It makes no sense to do the same thing and expect different results.”
Aboriginals make up less than three per cent of the local population but are over represented in the justice system.
They make up one third of the Bunbury juvenile justice system for repeat offenders or crimes which cannot be mediated.
There are 48 aboriginals in the Bunbury Regional Prison adult population of 335.
“One of the problems we see in the South West is that it is not recognised as a hotspot–most funding goes to the northern territories,” Ms Lewis said.
Ms Lewis said more ideas were needed to be explored to keep aboriginals out of jail.
Imprisonment can create barriers which block a young person’s ability to find employment.
Goomburrup aims to create a strong sense of self and belonging for people who come for assistance.
“Once they know about themselves they can champion that in their families,” Ms Lewis said
South West District Superint-endent Lawrence Panaia said police had a role where multi agency action was needed to intervene where families had become dysfunctional.
Supt Panaia is chairman of the region’s Head of Human Services which includes the Department of Child Protection, Health Department of Housing.
“I believe that the South West community need to work together so indigenous people don’t have a sense of hopelessness,” he said.
“It’s a long term process–education, employment opportunities and building a sense of hope for the community,”
Supt Panaia said the South West aboriginal community worked hard to improve their standing.