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We Must Improve Justice for Young Aboriginal Tasmanians

Published: (Updated: ) in Australian News by .

“Children are our greatest treasure. They are our future,” said Nelson Mandela, the great South African. This sentiment holds true for Tasmanians, including the Tasmanian Aboriginal community. The need to ensure that our treasure is nurtured and helped to thrive is one of the elements at the centre of the Memorandum of Understanding entered into […]

“Children are our greatest treasure. They are our future,” said Nelson Mandela, the great South African.

This sentiment holds true for Tasmanians, including the Tasmanian Aboriginal community.

The need to ensure that our treasure is nurtured and helped to thrive is one of the elements at the centre of the Memorandum of Understanding entered into by the Tasmanian Aboriginal Legal Service and Tasmania Legal Aid on April 22.

The memorandum acknowledges that as the largest providers of legal services to First Nations people, it is important that the Tasmanian Aboriginal Legal Service and Tasmania Legal Aid work together to improve the justice outcomes for Aboriginal people living in Tasmania.

The lasting impacts of colonisation are witnessed in the overrepresentation of Aboriginal children in the youth justice and child safety system.

Despite only making up about 10 per cent of the Tasmanian population aged 10 to 17, Aboriginal children account for about 30 per cent of children under youth justice supervision and 40 per cent of children in detention.

They are imprisoned at five times the rate of their peers.

Similarly, Aboriginal children are four times as likely to be in out of home care than their non-Aboriginal playmates, accounting for more than 25 per cent of children in out-of-home care.

Children in out-of-home care who become involved in the youth justice system have poorer long term life outcomes than their peers.

Early engagement in the youth justice system increases the longer term involvement in the justice system.

Our experience, together with extensive research, tells us that there are things that can be done to change this.

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Raising the age of criminal responsibility from 10 to 14 will have a significant impact on the lives of children and the communities where they live.

The Productivity Commission has noted that the minimum age of criminal responsibility is a systemic and structural factor contributing to Aboriginal children being involved in the youth justice system, and that raising the age would reduce the number of children involved.

The need to improve outcomes for children is why we are working together to develop services for families before children are removed. Helping families get the support they need will help keep children safe and achieve their potential.

We recognise the resilience, capacity and determination of First Nations people.

We are committed to working with local communities to ensure that legal services are culturally welcoming and safe.

By joining together, the Tasmanian Aboriginal Legal Service and Tasmania Legal Aid and communities can help our children grow and have a better future.


Vincenzo Caltabiano is director of Tasmania Legal Aid. Hannah Phillips is principal lawyer at the Tasmanian Aboriginal Legal Service.

Source: Tasmanian Times https://www.tasmaniantimes.com/2021/05/we-must-improve-justice-for-young-aboriginal-tasmanians/#utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=we-must-improve-justice-for-young-aboriginal-tasmanians

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