The over-incarceration of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples is a profound threat to the health and wellbeing of communities, families and individuals, according to Summer May Finlay, a Yorta Yorta woman who works in Aboriginal health and is a PhD candidate.

In the article below, Finlay encourages Croakey readers to engage with the recently launched #JustJustice crowdfunding campaign, which plans to take a solutions-focused approach in a series of articles at Croakey investigating over-policing and over-incarceration as critical health concerns.

The series – to be published as an e-book – will also incorporate stories from community members telling of their experiences with the justice system, the impacts of over incarceration, and their ideas for how to create a fairer system.

To find out more about #JustJustice, join Finlay this afternoon in a live-streamed, interactive discussion via the Periscope app – from 5.30 – 6pm AEST. We also want to hear your ideas for #JustJustice.

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Summer May Finlay writes:

The majority of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people never end up coming in contact with the law; however, for those who do, the justice system can start a vicious cycle of incarceration.

This is a critical public health issue that is causing great harm to individuals, their families and their communities.

To create a fairer justice system, we need governments and policymakers to work much harder at preventing people from becoming part of the cycle of incarceration.

We need some policies to stop, like mandatory detention now in place in the Northern Territory and Western Australia, and we need to support the wider use of programs like Justice Reinvestment and the Koori Courts. 

We need strong national action, through measures like Justice Targets under Closing the Gap, and an end to the piecemeal approach that now prevails across the different jurisdictions.

We need politicians and people who work in the justice system to have a better understanding of the role that social issues like racism, poverty and disadvantage play in contributing to over-incarceration.

Change the conversation
And we also need to shift our public conversations about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

I know from my own experience there is a profound disconnect from the way the media describes Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to my own lived experience of our strengths.

Whenever I read about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, it’s almost like it’s a bad thing. I’m a proud Aboriginal person, I love being Aboriginal, and I couldn’t imagine ever being anything but an Aboriginal person.

We need a national conversation that recognises and celebrates the strengths of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and communities.

I’ve had the luxury of travelling to communities around Australia, and I see these strong, passionate, caring, generous peoples. I don’t see that reality reflected in the way we’re described in the media.

If people actually got to know Aboriginal Peoples as a collective, they’d realise that we’re a hell of a lot more than what you see in the media.

I hope the #JustJustice series will help the wider Australian community to understand the wide-ranging impacts of over-incarceration, which is fracturing our peoples, our cultures, our communities.

The story I want to see told is how over-incarceration is hurting us as Peoples. We’ve had so much that is being stolen or lost already. I don’t want to see people having to have more taken from them than they already have.

I hope this series will help encourage a better informed conversation. A lot of people don’t really understand the issues, don’t really understand the history, don’t really understand what Aboriginal and Torres Strait people are going through, and have gone through.

A series of articles at Croakey is a significant opportunity to help change attitudes and beliefs.

Think of the young people
One of the reasons why I’m passionate about this issue is that I used to be a youth and children’s worker. I used to watch people treat these amazingly beautiful children like they weren’t worth very much because they came from significantly disadvantaged backgrounds.

I’d really like to see these children growing up and doing whatever it is they want to do. But at the moment, they often don’t feel like they can achieve what it is they want to achieve.

We are supposedly a lucky country but for a lot of these kids, it’s not a lucky country. That’s what motivates me, these young ones, they’re so intelligent and they’re so beautiful, and yet you know they never think they can do what they want to do.

I’m excited by the potential for the #JustJustice series to help tell the wider community about the stories that I see, the stories that actually reflect the true reality of what it is to be Aboriginal and to be part of an Aboriginal community.

I really want to make sure that when we’re actually talking about justice, that we’re actually talking about it from our perspective, and we’re actually looking at what’s really happening.

I came up with the hashtag for this series, #JustJustice, because it encapsulates where we need to be aiming.

If you would like to contribute to #JustJustice, please visit our Pozible campaign and consider supporting it – whether by donating or helping to spread the word.

• Please support the #JustJustice Pozible campaign

• See Summer May Finlay talk more about her passion for #JustJustice here

Summer May Finlay is a Yorta Yorta woman who grew up on Lake Macquarie near Newcastle. She has worked in Aboriginal affairs for over 10 years and currently works in Aboriginal Health. Summer has a Bachelor of Social Science with a Linguistic Major, Master of Public Health with a Social Marketing Major and is just about to embark on a PhD. She has a passion for Aboriginal affairs and social justice.

You can follow her on Twitter (@OnTopicAus) or on LinkedIn.

 

 

 

 

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