Justice for Aboriginal people requires transformational change – not government paralysis

The Victorian Government response to the Yoorrook for Justice report is unworthy of the heart wrenching truths that were told at the Yoorrook Justice Commission.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Victoria have done the hard work to share their stories to the Yoorrook Justice Commission and paint their picture of a better future for all Victorians. However, the Victorian Government response is light on detail and commitments. Once again Aboriginal Victorians are being told that a little should be enough and the urgent changes that would immediately improve the reality of so many is something that is subject to Victoria’s “fiscal reality” – one rule for Aboriginal Victoria, another for prisons and police.

The Victorian Government response says that it supports in full less than 10% of the recommendations made by Yoorrook. The Government says it supports in principle or is reviewing 39 of the 46 recommendations, claiming that it needs to do more work before it can decide whether to commit to these recommendations, despite these recommendations being repeated asks of Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations for many, many years now.

We understand that the Victorian Government is committed to Treaty, we are too, but they must also commit to implementing recommendations from Yoorrook as they are an important step in laying the foundation for the generational process of treaty. Transforming systems that have worked against our communities for generations does not happen in a day, it starts with laying the groundwork – starting to transfer resourcing and decision making, acting on urgent priorities to ensure communities are not further harmed by broken system.

The Victorian Government will need to be ready to engage in a far bigger and transformational agenda when they sit down to negotiate Treaty. A lot of work has been done by a lot of people – particularly our people – to get Truth and Treaty to this point and it would be a serious failure if the Victorian Government fumbled the ball at this stage.

Quotes Attributable to Nerita Waight, CEO of the Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service:

“We have waited over 210 days for the Victorian Government to respond to the Yoorrook for Justice Report and it reads like it was slapped together overnight. It is so disappointing that the Victorian Government did not take this more seriously and develop a more detailed response that supported in full all recommendations. If they needed help to do that they would have received it from Aboriginal Communities and their organisations”

“The Victorian Government’s response to the Yoorrook for Justice report does not give our people any confidence that they are ready to commit to the transformational change treaty requires when they can’t even lay the groundwork in the child protection and criminal justice systems”

“It feels like a paralysis has set into the Victorian Government since the change of Premier. Promises have been delayed or shelved, and there’s no clear direction coming from the Government. Just a few weeks ago the Victorian Government broke a long-standing promise to reform bail laws for children – breaching the Closing the Gap Agreement and the Aboriginal Justice Agreement in the process.”

“Treaty needs to transform Victoria. That is going to require the Victorian Government to dream big and be bold. I want to help them to do that. I want Premier Jacinta Allan to be the first leader in Australia to sign a Treaty with our people – but the Premier needs to commit to a big vision and whip her government into shape so that it can deliver.”


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