End systemic racism against First Nations people and fix our broken justice system
Today is National Sorry Day – a day to acknowledge the ongoing impacts and trauma of the stolen generations. But today, Aboriginal children are still being removed from their families.
This week I spoke in Parliament about ongoing systemic racism and what Victoria must do to address some of the injustices to our First Nations people:
Dr RATNAM: The ongoing impacts of colonisation on First Nations people are stark. There have been seven Aboriginal deaths in custody in the last three months, including here in Victoria. The answers to this crisis are clear and have been for years. In Victoria reform of our bail laws is now urgent.
The Labor government’s tough-on-crime politics have been toughest on the poorest and most vulnerable, who are often imprisoned for very minor offences and then get stuck in a cycle of reoffending. We need to be building community and investing in homes, education and jobs, all led by our First Nations, not spending billions on more prisons. We also need to ensure First Nations people have access to justice. The Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service is so underfunded it has now been forced to put a freeze on new clients. First Nations people in Australia remain the most over-incarcerated people on earth. This is a gross injustice.
This week we will commemorate National Sorry Day, a day to acknowledge the intergenerational trauma of the stolen generations but also their strength and resilience. We also need to be aware that First Nations children are still being removed from their families and communities at unacceptably high rates and that Victoria has the highest reported rate of Indigenous kids in out-of-home care of all states and territories.
We hear often in this place people expressing concern and care about these injustices, but what matters now is action. We have the chance to create change and address the many systemic causes of racism. This includes reform of our justice system, raising the age of criminal responsibility and reforming bail laws as well as ensuring First Nations communities are supported and empowered to take part in the treaty and truth-telling processes.