Grassroots self-determination by First Nations communities must be at the heart of our journey of healing, truth-telling, treaty and justice.
This country has a deeply racist and brutal past toward the First Peoples of this Land. Today, discrimination against Aboriginal people continues with deaths in custody and ongoing descrimination in our so-called justice system some of the most devastating examples of this.
As a nation, we must reconcile with our past and begin the healing. This can only be achieved through fixing our harmful systems and through honouring true-self determination by grassroots First Nations communities over their collective future. We must ensure our truth-telling and treaty processes centre around grassroots communities in order to secure restorative justice for First Nation peoples.
Justice for First Nations peoples has been central to my time in parliament.
In 2018, I was honoured to work closely to Greens MP Lidia Thorpe, the first Aboriginal women elected to the Victorian Parliament, to make crucial improvements to and pass Treaty legislation in Victoria. I continue to engage with this process and provide support and a voice to communities marginalised in the process.
Putting a stop to the tragic deaths of First Nations people in custody has also been a central focus for me. Aboriginal organisations all agree the most important way to achieve this is to stop the over-incarceration of First Nations people, starting with children.
In 2021, on behalf of the Greens I introduced legislation to Raise the Age of criminal responsibility from 10 to 14 in Victoria to stop the disproportionate incarceration of Aboriginal children for minor legal missteps. Children should be cared for and protected, supported and guided to learn and grow, not racially targeted by police and traumatised by being locked in prison.
I also introduced legislation to reform our unjust bail laws that see people locked up while awaiting trail, even for minor crimes. In an attempt to appear “tough on crime”, Labor and Liberal governments have brought in oppressive bail laws that are jailing record numbers of people for minor offences linked to disadvantage. As a result, First Nations people, women, children and people from under resourced communities are being unfairly targeted and imprisoned at higher numbers than at any other time in our history.
If we are truly committed to healing and justice for First Nations people, we need to stop paying lip service to the issues and make meaningful changes to our justice system that stop deaths in custody. We must also make strong investments in grassroots communities to ensure all 38 First Nations are empowered to shape and participate in the First Peoples’ Assembly of Victoria, protection of cultural heritage, and the treaty and truth-telling processes.
Together we can heal and change the course of this country’s history for the better.