On Monday, the Yoorrook Justice Commission will begin two weeks of public hearings investigating the harm done to First Peoples by unjust laws and practices within Victoria’s criminal justice and child protection systems.
“These hearings form a key part of the truth telling process. It is vital that all Victorians understand the true story of the invasion and colonisation of First Peoples’ lands, and the devastating and lasting impact it continues to have,” said Professor Eleanor Bourke AM, a Wergaia and Wamba Wamba Elder and Chair of the Commission.
About 50 witnesses are set to give evidence during the hearings, including representatives from Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations, service providers and experts.
“Aboriginal people are severely over-represented within both the child protection and criminal justice systems, and the situation is getting worse in many respects,” Professor Bourke said.
“Yoorrook will investigate the reasons why current approaches continue to fail First Peoples. It will examine why governments are removing our children from their families and communities at the worst rate in the country and why they are imprisoning our people at rising rates, with continued deaths in custody.
“The testimony provided to Yoorrook will help form the evidence base needed to make recommendations to address systemic injustices and build a better future for all Victorians based on truth and justice.”
The December hearings will include evidence about the over-representation of First Peoples within both the child protection and criminal justice systems, the seeming inability or unwillingness by governments to address these disparities, as well as existing and potential solutions.
In two further rounds of hearings in February and March 2023, Yoorrook will hear First Peoples’ community voices as well as state and institutional witnesses.
All Victorian First Peoples – or First Peoples who experienced a systemic injustice within Victoria – can continue to tell their truth about any ongoing or historic injustice by making a submission through Yoorrook’s online submission portal.
First Peoples are encouraged to make submissions in any form they wish, including audio or video recorded submissions, artwork, or recordings of song or dance in addition to written submissions.
Free, confidential, and safe social and emotional wellbeing support and legal advice is available for all First Peoples wishing to tell their truth to Yoorrook.
Notes to editor:
- Yoorrook’s legal team comprises senior counsel Wirdi man Tony McAvoy SC – widely recognised as Australia’s most senior First Nations barrister – and Fiona McLeod AO SC, and junior counsel Yuin man Timothy Goodwin and Sarala Fitzgerald.
For media inquiries, including making a request to attend parts of the December hearings in person, contact [email protected] or 0408 847 385. The hearings can also be viewed online via Yoorrook’s website.
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