Self-Determination Will Decide the Success of the Yoo-rrook Justice Commission

MEDIA RELEASE 09 March 2021

Self-Determination Will Decide the Success of the Yoo-rrook Justice Commission

VALS welcomes the opportunity that the Yoo-rrook Justice Commission presents and commends the Victorian Government for committing to a process that governments across Australia have denied to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

Given Victoria will be “first and only jurisdiction in our nation to institute a formal truth-telling forum,” it is vital that it is set up to succeed. VALS believes that Yoo-rrook will succeed if:

  • It is led by Aboriginal people
  • Aboriginal communities are properly resourced to participate.
  • Its work is supported by international experts.
  • It examines the experience Aboriginal people have had with the legal system.
  • It is informed by the lessons of truth-telling processes around the world and learns from their mistakes and successes.
Too many times, Aboriginal people have been subjected to the solutions of non-Aboriginal people. Since colonisation, Aboriginal people have been controlled and oppressed by those who think they know best.

The Government’s commitment that Yoo-rrook will be independent and that at least three of the five Commissioners will be Aboriginal is commendable, but it must ensure that Aboriginal people and their voices are centered and that Aboriginal people drive the process.

Yoo-rrook and Aboriginal communities must be properly resourced. International experts must bring their knowledge to the work of Yoo-rrook to ensure that the truth-telling process results in tangible, meaningful justice.

VALS also believes that it is crucial that Yoo-rrook examines the experiences of Aboriginal people with the current legal system that was imported from Britain at the time of colonisation and weaponised ever since to marginalise Aboriginal people.

Yoo-rrook must also not serve as an excuse for government inaction over the three years it is set to run. We have already advocated for many solutions to close the gap between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and non-Indigenous Australians.

That is why we have developed our Building Back Better plan and we will keep advocating for the Victorian Government to implement all our recommendations.

The Victorian Government could start by committing to raise the age of criminal responsibility to at least 14 immediately.

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

“Yoo-rrook represents a tremendous opportunity for Aboriginal people.”

“Yoo-rrook must be truly independent, properly resourced, and Aboriginal-led.
Self-determination is the only way Aboriginal people will ever get justice. Self-determination too often is stifled by bureaucracies that exclude or sideline Aboriginal voices.”

“We are often told by Prime Ministers, Premiers, and Ministers to wait. That we need to go on a journey with them. That they will do the right thing when circumstances allow. The Victorian Government has the power to improve the lives of Aboriginal people significantly today. And they must.”

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