Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people continue to struggle to have their voices heard. They have faced and continue to face generational challenges. The Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service (VALS) has been fighting for the rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders since 1973. VALS is horrified that there have been 432 Aboriginal deaths in custody since the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody almost 30 years ago. VALS echoes the calls of our community that the following needs to happen:
End the mass imprisonment of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples by repealing punitive bail laws; mandatory sentencing laws; and decriminalising public drunkenness.
Stop imprisoning Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and raise the age of legal responsibility from 10 to at least 14 years.
End racist policing and require police accountability by ending the practice of police investigating police, and legislating for independent investigations of deaths in custody and resourcing independent police oversight bodies.
Implement all recommendations from the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody and the countless independent investigations, coronial inquests and reports that have been published in the three decades since.
End the abuse, torture and solitary confinement of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in police and prison cells through legislative safeguards and by urgently establishing independent bodies to oversee the conditions of detention and treatment of people; in accordance with our obligations under the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (OPCAT).
Through Wirraway, our Specialist Legal and Litigation Practice, we seek to increase our advocacy on these matters and ensure greater accountability in police misconduct, corrections services, other Government departments and in policy activity to promote and drive change.
The Practice seeks to champion the rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples that would not ordinary be able to access such advocacy. The Practice is led by our Director of Legal Services Moricia Vrymoet, Aboriginal woman, and a team of dedicated lawyers who possess immense experience in advocacy. The Practice is committed to supporting the just treatment and just outcomes of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people throughout Victoria. The Practice understands the challenges of policing and informed by the extensive experience their Director holds having worked as a lawyer for Victoria Police for many years prior to taking on her role with VALS. The Team are seeking to increased advocacy opportunities to bring attention to the need for improved policing practices and better approaches to custodial practices.
The Practice is called Wirraway because it is a Wurundjeri word meaning challenge. The Practice understands the challenges of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and seeks to address them. The Practice ensures that the truth is heard and that the voices of all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are at the forefront. The Practice is also committed to working with Corrections Victoria and Victoria Police to see better outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and to promote improved police practices within the Victoria Police, that are informed by cultural understanding of the Aboriginal people of Victoria.