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Voices of Aboriginal young people heard by national inquiry

The views of WA Aboriginal young people are being heard by a national Inquiry on Aboriginal incarceration rates, thanks to a submission made by the Commissioner for Children and Young People Colin Pettit.

The Commissioner’s submission to the Australian Law Reform Commission’s Inquiry into Incarceration Rates of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples is based the views of young people who took part in his 2016 youth justice consultation.

The Commissioner said it is extremely important for decision makers and legislators to hear what vulnerable children and young people say about their lives and wellbeing.

“The young people who participated in the youth justice consultation named family dysfunction – particularly ingrained criminal activity, alcohol and drug abuse, a lack of structure and boundaries, family violence and mental health issues – as the dominant factor that led to their participation in crime,” Mr Pettit said.

“I do not condone illegal or anti-social behaviour and it is important for young people, like everyone else, to repay the community for any offence they commit, but this must be achieved by addressing the underlying causes of their behaviour.

“Young people were clear about the supports they need to turn their lives around, such as the need for access to education and employment, and opportunities to participate in the community activities.

“They also expressed the importance of forming respectful, trusting and long-term mentoring relationships with professionals, including youth justice workers and police, and having access to the right support services, such as drug and alcohol rehabilitation.

“I am hopeful that the voices of these Aboriginal young people will directly influence decision making on the policies, legislation and services, so we can start to address the over-representation of Aboriginal people in the justice system.”

The Submission is available via the Youth Justice resources page of the Commissioner’s website.

You can also view a snapshot of the consultation findings in an infographic.