Gloom over prospect of disengagement

Crisis for Indigenous youth risks becoming a catastrophe.

Kerri Carr

Mick Gooda: we do better at keeping our youth in prison than at school.

Changes to the youth welfare system could lead to more Indigenous people disengaging from education and training, fears Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner Mick Gooda.

He told Federation’s Annual Conference on June 29 that denying young people for six months of the year could lead to a spike in the crime rate.

“Young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are already 28 times more likely to be in youth detention than other Australians. And when the cuts to Aboriginal Legal Services are added to this mix, the multiplier effect means this crisis risks becoming a catastrophe,” Mr Gooda said.

“Once a young person has been involved in the criminal justice system it is notoriously difficult to re-engage them with the education system.”

“I find it shocking that as a society we do better at keeping Aboriginal people in prison than in school or university. The Aboriginal reimprisonment rate — 58 per cent within 10 years — is actually higher than the Aboriginal school retention rate from year 7 to year 12, 46.5 per cent,” he added.

Mr Gooda said the Budget proposal had been “developed with little or no input from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and their representative
organisations”.

He said governments needed to actively involve Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders in decision-making.