In this toolkit
Find your own voice and take action
What to do
Writing a letter to your local MP or to other relevant Ministers and Parliamentarians is still one of the simplest and most direct ways to hold our politicians to account. The more people that contact their local MPs, the more likely it is that they will take notice and a personal well crafted letter can have an impact on politicians.
Keep your letter short, ideally 1-2 pages – using simple points to make your case. First Nations People constitute only 3.3% of Australia’s population and so for their voices to be heard they need our voices in solidarity. Ensure that you use correct titles and contact details for all MPs (you can usually find these on Parliamentary websites, and often politicians have their own websites).
What to say
You can draw on the history and current conditions outlined in the Justice pages of the ANTaR website and other sources to express your concerns and request action/s of your elected representative/s. In particular, feel free to use our blog critique of the Federal government’s 2020-21 budget. Below are some further points to consider.
Australia’s record of according justice towards to its First Nations Peoples:
- Australia is one of only a few western democracies yet to commit to structural change that would allow the Voices of its First Peoples to be heard on matters pertaining to their wellbeing.
- Australia is one of the wealthiest nations on earth and yet it pursues First Nations policies that contribute towards extraordinary levels of incarceration in every jurisdiction; poor health outcomes; poor employment rates; poor educational outcomes; extraordinary rates of out-of-home care of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children; and, disparity between First Nations and non-Indigenous people in numerous other indicators.
- Australia's First Nations peoples are proportionately the most incarcerated on earth.
- Criminal Justice in Australia has been shown to have systemic racism with discriminatory practices that have a negative bias towards First Nations people.
- Since the Royal Commission into Aboriginal deaths in Custody in 1991, there have many subsequent inquiries, reports and recommendations (largely initiated by governments) with the most recent being the Australian Law Reform Commission's Pathways to Justice, 2018, that sets out the latest blueprintfor change. Despite all these reports and recommendaton there has been no real change in outcome for First Nations peoples.
- The Federal government has failed to allocate any substantial monies towards the new National Closing the Gap Agreement.
Let us know how you go
Your efforts do make a difference and it is important to let our elected representatives know that these matters are important for us and inform our vote. Join us in telling our parliamentarians that we find the experience of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the justice system unacceptable.
When you’ve sent your messages out, please come back here and report your advocacy action below. This helps ANTaR monitor the grassroots advocacy taking place across Australia.
Please inform us if you receive a reply or see any progress in Justice initiatives in your area. Please email the team at: [email protected]
Thank you, and as always we appreciate your efforts and support!
More background and ways to get involved
Change the Record
ANTaR, along with leading Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peak, community and human rights organisations launched the Change the Record Campaign in April 2015. This national campaign seeks to address the disproportionate rates of incarceration of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and the high levels of violence experienced, particularly by women and children. Change the Record is now a central part of ANTaR's work on Justice issues and ANTaR is proud to auspice the Change the Record Campaign and stand with First Nations Peoples in fighting for a much more equitable justice system.
Raise The Age
In just one year across Australia close to 600 children aged 10 to 13 years were locked up and thousands more were hauled through the criminal legal system. First Nations children are disproportionately impacted by these laws and pushed into prison cells at even higher rates, accounting for 65 percent of these younger children in prisons. There has been a chorus of calls both nationally and internationally from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations, expert United Nations bodies, human rights organisations, medical and legal bodies, and academics for Australia to raise the minimum age of criminal responsibility.
The newly returned ACT Labour government has committed to introducing changes in its next term of parliament.
It's time for a smarter, safer approach. Justice Reinvestment. Creators and beneficiaries describe the rationale for the first successful Justice Reinvestment project in Bourke NSW.
The first major justice reinvestment project in Australia The story of the the first major justice reinvestment project in Australia in Bourke NSW.
What can we learn from Justice Reinvestment? Research evidence that supports the concept of building communities not jails.
'Answers were there to greet us in Bourke.' Blog post by Paul Wright on the Maranguka Justice Reinvestment project.
Get Involved – Just Reinvest NSW suggests a number of actions to take. In particular it directs you to use the template provided, to urge the Commonwealth Government / states and territories to take action to implement the 35 recommendations of the Australian Law Reform Commission’s 2018 Pathways to Justice Report.
Black Lives Matter
The issues articulated during the Black Lives Matter June 2020 rallies around Australia focussed on police violence against youth, abuse and negligence leading to black deaths in custody and systemic bias in the criminal justice system. The numbers of Australians who attended these rallies despite Covid-19 pandemic restrictions against such gatherings was unprecedented.
To maintain momentum of the Black Lives Matter Movement leading First Nations barrister Tony McAvoy SC believes we must:
- Continue the rallies as they are cutting through mainstream media silence;
- Present to the media ongoing incidents of injustice as they occur;
- Articulate to the broader community how they can be involved in bringing about the outcomes that we all want.
Do black lives matter in the Australian legal system? Melbourne Law School hosts a panel discussion exploring ‘justice’ for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in Australia.
Living Black: Aboriginial Lives Matter Conversations with families of deaths in custody of David Dungay Jnr; Rebecca Maher, Nathan Reynolds.
Four Corners: Black Lives Matter Reported by Stan Grant.
Closing the Justice Gap: Implementing the Australian Law Reform Commission's Pathways to Justice Roadmap The Law Council of Australia hosted an online webinar featuring Hannah McGlade, Karly Warner, Tracey McIntosh and Tony McAvoy SC.
NATSILS – National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services.
Murri Watch – Established in 1991 just prior to the handing down of the Recommendations arising from the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody.
Aboriginal Legal Service (NSW/ACT) – ALS has been providing legal services to Aboriginal people since 1970.
National FVPLS Forum – National Family Violence Prevention and Legal Services Forum provide holistic, specialist, culturally safe legal and non-legal supports to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people experiencing or at risk of family violence.