VALS to push for systemic transformation in historic Yoorrook hearings

A panel of representatives from VALS will appear before the Yoorrook Justice Commission today to call for radical change to address the ongoing harm inflicted upon First Peoples in Victoria by unjust laws and practices.

The Commission, which is now into its second week of public hearings focused on the criminal justice and child protection systems, will hear evidence from VALS CEO Nerita Waight and three of the organisation’s Principal Managing Lawyers.

The witnesses will draw on key issues and recommendations raised in the two submissions given to Yoorrook earlier this month, highlighting the faults in both systems which continue to fail Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Victoria.

They will address our vision for the transformation to an Aboriginal led justice system, and the critical need to transfer power, control and resources through a Justice Treaty with Aboriginal Communities. The right to self-determination needs to be fully realised, through a Justice Treaty and in all the Victorian Government’s activity.

VALS is also calling for standalone child protection legislation for Aboriginal children and families. Victoria has the highest rate of Aboriginal child removal in the country. It is time for power to be removed from a child protection bureaucracy that has always harmed Aboriginal children, and placed with Aboriginal communities.

As well as wholesale transformation, VALS will call for urgent reforms to be implemented immediately. The Victorian Government needs to reverse its draconian bail laws, establish real independent oversight of police and prisons, and overhaul prison healthcare to remove neglectful for-profit companies.

Nerita Waight believes Yoorrook has far-reaching potential to unearth the truth about Victoria’s legal system and how it needs to change and is pleased to be participating in these historic hearings.

VALS’ appearance at the Yoorroook Justice Commission hearing will be publicly available to watch live today at 2pm AEDT on the Yoorrook website.

VALS’ submissions to Yoorrook are available to read on our website.

Quotes attributable to VALS CEO Nerita Waight:

“Australian society desperately needs to eradicate racism in all its forms. To achieve that, we need to aim higher than merely mitigating the harms of a colonial legal system.”

“Our clients’ voices will continue to be placed at the forefront. Today is an opportunity to platform those voices and shed light on the systemic racism that is failing them.”

“The legal system has been central to the oppression of our people, by the colony, since the first day the British arrived. Now is the time for total transformation of the legal system, not piecemeal reform.”

“A Justice Treaty must be negotiated by Aboriginal communities; it is not something for Yoorrook to decide. But the impetus for this negotiation sits with Yoorrook Commission. The Commission must recommend a mechanism for transformational change in the criminal legal system.”


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