Rising Indigenous Voice Ready to Lead if Chosen
9 July 2018 at 11:05 pm
During NAIDOC Week many familiar Indigenous leaders will be in the media, but at the same time a young Indigenous advocate, a rising voice representing the next generation of leadership, has returned to Australia from addressing the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.
He was Keenan Mundine, a principal consultant of Sydney’s Inside Out Aboriginal Justice Consultancy.
He’s gaining prominence in the #RaiseTheAge campaign – to raise the age of criminal responsibility from 10 to 14 years, and he was getting noticed in Geneva and back home.
Pro Bono News asked National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Service co-chair Cheryl Axleby her impression of Mundine and his Geneva address.
“Keenan has shown great courage in sharing with the world his lived experience as a young Indigenous person in prison,” Axleby said.
“Keenan is a role model in his community and now runs a youth justice prevention program.
“We must hear his important message, that Australian governments must raise the age of criminal responsibility to 14 years, and all Indigenous children deserve equality and freedom.”
Mundine first entered juvenile custody aged 14 years. Both his parents died during his troubled childhood in Sydney’s Redfern.
While representing others as young as 10 years who were kept in custody, Mundine last week told his story to the world’s peak human rights body, of which Australia is a member.
Pro Bono News spoke to Mundine about his leadership aspirations this week as he arrived back in Australia at the beginning of the year’s NAIDOC Week.
“If my community and people see me as a leader then I’m more than happy to take on that role,” Mundine said
“But it’s not something you appoint yourself as. It’s something your community, or the people you are advocating for, give to you.
“If that’s something my people want to give me then I would respect that. I feel I’m in a position to lead and do my people proud – help show the way.
“Even if that just means continuing doing the work I do, continuing along the lines of what I see for the future, our next generation, our people – because that’s where I’m headed.”
Mundine told the council in his address that just this year 600 children under the age of 14 will be taken from their families and put in custody.
Indigenous children were 25 times more likely to be sent to prison than non-Indigenous children, he said.
He added that across Australia, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children made up more than 50 per cent of the children locked away in youth prisons.
Apart from Inside Out Aboriginal Justice Consultancy, Keenan also advocates at Just Reinvest NSW, a coalition concerned about the significant number of Aboriginal children in custody.
"I have travelled from across the world to address this Council because I want my two sons to live in a country that treats them fairly."Keenan Mundine addresses the UN Human Rights Council.
Posted by Human Rights Law Centre on Tuesday, 3 July 2018