Yoorrook hearings to focus on Victoria’s criminal justice system

For media enquiries, please contact Evan Schuurman 0408 847 385 or evan.schuurman@yoorrook.org.au

December 9, 2022

The Yoorrook Justice Commission will hear evidence about the injustices faced by First Peoples in Victoria’s criminal justice system next week.

About 30 witnesses are expected to appear before the inquiry, including legal experts and practitioners, Victoria Legal Aid, and the Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service.

The evidence is expected to focus on the over-representation of First Peoples in the justice system and the actions and inactions of government. It will also include the personal experiences of First Peoples who have come into contact with the criminal justice system.

In Victoria, Aboriginal people are around 14 times more likely to be imprisoned than non-Aboriginal people, while Aboriginal children are about six times more likely to be jailed than non-Indigenous children.

During the first week of the hearings, Yoorrook has heard evidence focused on Victoria’s child protection system, including testimony from witnesses who are survivors of the Stolen Generations.

Professor Eleanor Bourke AM, a Wergaia and Wamba Wamba Elder and Chair of the Commission said:

“This week, the Commission heard from First Peoples who have experienced the devastating impact of child removal, and the alarming rates at which this is happening here in Victoria. Yoorrook heard many times over that the child protection system acts as a pipeline moving young people into the criminal justice system.

“Just like child protection, First Peoples are significantly over-represented in Victoria’s criminal justice system. Next week Yoorrook will hear testimony around why this is happening, why it hasn’t been addressed, and what is needed to fix it.

“These hearings, along with submissions by First Peoples, will form a large part of the evidence base that Yoorrook will use to make recommendations to the Victorian government to address systemic injustice faced by First Peoples.”

In two further rounds of hearings in February and March 2023, Yoorrook will hear from more First Peoples’ who have experienced injustice in the criminal justice and child protection systems, as well as from government and institutional witnesses.

All Victorian First Peoples – or First Peoples who experienced a systemic injustice within Victoria – can 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. This may include 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.

The witness list is available here.

ENDS

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