Tackling mass incarceration of aboriginal youths
Australia with its growing proportion of aboriginal youths, is undoubtedly incarcerating them on petty crimes that non aboriginals won’t even get warned about. It is sickening that for example in the state of Queensland, Indigenous communities comprises 8% of the population for those aged 10 to 17 years, but shockingly consist of 53 per cent of those facing justice monitoring on a daily basis. How can it be, that only one race appear to commits crime? I have lived in different parts of Queensland in the past and know the cities in and out, the outback, the islands and there’s no way one can convince me otherwise. Young people between the ages of 10 and 24 years are supposed to be using their unprecedented position to harness Australia’s demographic dividend and accelerate economic progress but that doesn’t seem to bother those in power when it comes to involving the aboriginal communities. Government data shows that Indigenous youth are jailed at 25 times the rate of non-Indigenous youth.Why?In the same data released last year, there were about 5,500 young people aged 10 and above under youth justice supervision in Australia on an average day due to what authorities term as involvement or alleged involvement, in crime with more than three quarters being male. It also revealed that young Indigenous people were 17 times as likely as non-Indigenous young people to be under supervision on an average day.Australia’s approximate window of opportunity with the aboriginal youths, will not last long.This demographic dividend being mass incarcerated means a situation in which aboriginal people of productive age outnumber older people, will become problematic, unless the country fully invests in education, health, infrastructure and job creation for aboriginal youths like was envisioned by Harold Holt 50 years ago.
Those of us who see beyond the horizon have learned over the years that most state and federal government programs dealing with aboriginal youth are based on the interests of specific sectors. Instead of promoting a holistic concept that incorporates the overall development and wellbeing of young aboriginals that will save them from poverty and health problems, they do the opposite.Hardcore data has proved that young aboriginal people with minimal educational opportunities are likely to face socioeconomic challenges, substance and alcohol addiction in addition to being incarcerated.There is need for both local, state and federal governments to understands the importance of harnessing the demographic dividend the aboriginal youth presents and commit to ensuring effective youth programming and engagement.Aboriginal children have never felt fully integrated in the Australian education system establishments as it offers limited cultural connection, marginalizing most of my brothers and sisters who could be Contador Harrison of tomorrow. Apart from ignorant types, most Australians know that aboriginal students are definitely familiar of the cultural disengagement on their home lives and that in school, a challenge anyone young would find hard to manage.Historical injustices have over the last century plus had a serious footprint on possible good educational outcomes for many aboriginal communities. None of us can forget that, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples were ostracized and alienated from mainstream education system which gave birth to what experts describer as trans-generational drawback. Coordination, partnering and collaboration, both horizontally and vertically, involving young aboriginals will present opportunities for attending to their rights and basic needs, as well as for learning to work better with and empower them. Recent studies on aboriginal youth-related issues have emphasized that there is a great deal of diversity among young people throughout Australia but do those in decision making organs care?
Young aboriginals views need to be heard and respected, in order to craft strategies for all young aboriginals, to optimize the opportunities to develop their full potential, and to allow them to live free of poverty, incarceration, discrimination and violence.Aboriginal communities have so many strong and dedicated young people who understand and strive to fulfill their rights, including access to information and services but the opportunities are limited and discriminatory.In order to achieve development, it is vital for Australian government to ensure that aboriginal youths aren’t left behind. Given aboriginal youth issues are still sensitive in Australia, particularly incarceration and reproductive health and rights, substance and alcohol abuse, dialogue and cooperation among government agencies, the private sector, community leaders, NGOs, teachers, parents and youth-led organizations and networks is important to reduce the sickening and shameful incarceration of aboriginal youths.I do personally believe that encouraging and inviting aboriginal youth networks to consultative meetings of all government agencies to discuss with young aboriginals the issues that have affected their lives would be one way of addressing the issue of incarceration. In addition, they should be provided with capacity building to be able to participate meaningfully in policy development that touches on their lives directly and indirectly.By offering space for aboriginal youth to participate in policy and program development, implementation and monitoring, will help non aboriginals to better understand and value young aboriginal’s perspectives and contributions, in order to prepare them to become high-quality human capital in the future instead of languishing in prison.Developing clear parameters and indicators of success is critical same as regular monitoring and evaluation of aboriginal youth programs to improve youth policies and programs. Your blogger will be sharing decision makers, lawmakers and community leaders with exemplary innovative aboriginal youth interventions that will foster creativity and have a positive impact on the social and economic development of the aboriginal communities.