The Indigenous-led solutions being pushed to the back of decision making
1 July 2020 at 6:14 pm
The CEO of Deadly Connections says justice programs designed without Indigenous people are ineffective
Non-Indigenous community and government organisations must resource and work better alongside Indigenous-led justice programs if change is to happen, an Indigenous community leader says.
Wiradjuri woman and the CEO of Deadly Connections, Carly Stanley, spoke to Pro Bono News prior to giving a keynote address at the Virtual Progress Summit alongside her co-founder of the organisation, Keenan Mundine. The pair addressed the impacts of over policing and incarceration of First Nations communities, and the importance of community-led solutions.
Stanley said that Deadly Connections was created in 2018 to fill the gap in culturally responsive justice solutions for First Nations people in Australia.
Across the country, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people make up less than 3 per cent of the population, but about 30 per cent of the prison population.
“We’ve had a really hard time because there is a false belief that community safety means we have to lock people up and have more police, which we know isn’t the case,” Stanley said.
“The majority of people in jail have a history of trauma, have a history of disadvantage, have a history of mental illness… these people need support, and just need the skills to navigate life because they don’t have them yet.”
Deadly Connections harnesses the lived experience of First Nations people and those who have had contact with the justice system, to develop programs that address problems across the child protection and justice system.
Stanley said she wanted the attendees at Virtual Progress to embrace the resilience and strength of First Nations communities, and acknowledge that community-led solutions were the most effective way of overcoming these problems.
“We have the answers, and we have the solutions. We do not have the resources. And that’s the problem,” she said.
She said community-led initiatives such as theirs needed unattached funds and flexibility in the way they could deliver their programs, rather than relying on government and non-government groups that lacked lived experience or community connections to do the work.
“We are asking them to work beside us, because we’ve still got non-government organisations in our communities who have been doing the work for 40 years and they still don’t consult with the community on what needs to happen,” she said.
She also said that it was frustrating when community-led organisations were approached by government and non-government groups for advice after they were unable to do anything about it.
“We’ve been approached by different non-governmental and government organisations that have implemented these whiz-bang ideas they think are going to work,” she said.
“But you can’t implement it and then bring us in as a second thought, we need to be the first thought, because any justice program will not be effective for Aboriginal people if Aboriginal people are not involved in the design of the project.”
She said that if Aboriginal organisations were allowed to lead the way, it would mean a safer world for communities.
“Put simply, it would mean safer communities in terms of your neighbours being safer, families being safer, women being safer,” she said.
“And these organisations need to start walking beside us because anything without the cultural component will not work.”