The de-funding of TAFE and the removal of public education in prisons is a disgrace. The privatisation agenda is of no benefit to the working class or marginalised peoples, amongst whom are Aboriginal Australians — my people.
The recent removal of public education in prisons will have a devastating impact on inmates’ ability to obtain the education they need to reduce the risk of reoffending. Aboriginal peoples make up more than 27 per cent of the adult prison population and 50 per cent of the youth detention population, so these changes will hurt us.
The recent Uluru Statement calling for constitutional recognition and an Aboriginal voice in decision-making says: “Proportionally, we are the most incarcerated people on the planet. We are not an innately criminal people. Our children are aliened from their families at unprecedented rates. This cannot be because we have no love for them. And our youth languish in detention in obscene numbers. They should be our hope for the future. These dimensions of our crisis tell plainly the structural nature of our problem. This is the torment of our powerlessness.”
Aboriginal incarceration is a result of years of limited access to education, poverty, structural racism and intergenerational trauma. The neoliberal privatisation agenda seeks to blame individuals and absolve governments of solutions. How can true reconciliation be achieved when not only are my people being locked up, they are not being provided their fundamental right to quality public education?
It is a grim time for my people regarding access to education. We are already behind non-Aboriginal Australians and the gap will rise if proposed government policies go through. Policies that cut funding to schools, increase universities, and privatise TAFE. From schooling to TAFE to universities to prisons, we are continuing to be oppressed through a denial of access to education.