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Indigenous Youth and the Criminal Justice System in Australia.

Boersig, John
June 4, 2015

Source: (2005) In Elizabeth Elliott and Robert M. Gordon, eds., New Directions in Restorative Justice: Issues, Practice, Evaluation. Cullompton, UK: Willan Publishing. Pp. 115-133.

Under orthodox procedures, when the court determines a sentence, it considers whether the offender as an individual can be redeemed to become a “good” citizen. This determination is made in accordance with the dominant culture’s definition of morality, ethics, and community, rather than the perspectives of the offender or the Indigenous community. The orthodox sentencing regime does not admit or address an a priori challenge to authority and power that arise from the historical consequences of colonialism, which underlies the perennial problem of Indigenous juvenile offending. Many in Indigenous communities, in Australia and elsewhere, support the concept of restorative justice as a reflection of Indigenous “traditional” culture and values. Conferencing and circle sentencing as practiced in the Australian State of New South Wales, for example, reflect the Indigenous practice of using informal, community-based forums to tailor responses to violations of community behavioral norms that harm others and disrupt the community. Still, if restorative justice principles and practices provide a better pathway to justice, they must be devised and managed by Indigenous people. Indigenous sovereignty and self-determination must be the foundation for addressing the factors of colonization that have impaired the positive development of Indigenous youth. Abstract courtesy of the National Criminal Justice Reference Service,


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