Author: Nerita Waight
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Nerita Waight a Yorta Yorta woman who completed her Bachelor of Arts and Laws at Melbourne University in 2011. She is a founding member of Balit Ngulu, a specialist legal service for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, and is currently the Director of Executive and Corporate Services at the Vicotrian Aboriginal Legal Service (VALS).
Our once progressive state has taken another sharp downturn where principles such as truth and integrity fall by the wayside in pursuit of election success.
So much so that, in order to tackle a non-existent crisis in youth crime and disrupt an unproven ‘gang problem’, the Labor government is prepared to turn innocent children and young people into criminals.
New ‘anti-association’ laws introduced last week into Parliament aim to target what Police Minister referred to as ‘clean skins’ – young people aged 14 or above, with no prior criminal record.
This legislation will allow police to issue an anti-association notice to such a young person, to ensure they cannot have contact with a known offender for 12 months.
Predictable, ineffective and dangerous: Impacts of anti-association laws currently before parliament. #ProtectDemocracy #VicPolWatch #SmartJustice #NoRacismInPolitics #NotMyAustraliahttps://t.co/XX2RLzhJ2s pic.twitter.com/WGoQSs8YFa
— Flem-KenLegal (@Flemlegal) July 30, 2018
That the ‘known offender’ might be a reformed community member, a cultural mentor, or simply the fullback on the local football team, does not seem to matter.
What matters is out-Liberaling the Liberals on the tough-on-crime agenda in the lead up to November’s election – even if this means creating a youth crime crisis where none actually exists.
Under this new legislation, should the innocent young person breach the notice handed down by police – by, for example, having contact with the known offender on social media – the formerly innocent young person could end up with a criminal record or even go to jail.
Bizarrely, then, the Labor Government’s plan to reduce youth crime in fact will actually lead to an increase in criminalised young people.
Asked about anti-association laws, I have to state my grave concerns that they will criminalise kids with no offending history &, as has been found in NSW, will target Aboriginal kids & kids in Child Protection while doing little to address serious crime https://t.co/pZ03D8hJzW
— Liana Buchanan (@BuchananLiana) July 27, 2018
Given the majority of the Aboriginal community in Victoria are younger than 25 years old, these laws will unfairly target Aboriginal children and young people, further driving the already-shameful over-incarceration rates experienced by Aboriginal people in this state.
Aboriginal communities are already over-policed and such new laws will only increase the surveillance required to implement anti-association notices and register breaches.
The same over-policing is experienced by South Sudanese communities, and as such, this legislation will further criminalise communities of colour.
It has long been proven that any form of contact a child or young person has with the justice system immediately increases the likelihood that young person will end up in an adult prison.
Yet instead of arresting the flow of young people into prison, Dan Andrews is intent on increasing it in order to score political points and appear tough to voters.
The cost of this will be the lives of our state’s most vulnerable people; Aboriginal children and young people who are already over-represented in child protection and youth detention, and our South Sudanese brothers and sisters who are facing a massive spike in racism directed at their communities due to the unchallenged hysteria of the media.
By introducing such onerous and undemocratic laws, Dan Andrews has proven to be a fickle weed in the wind of mainstream media, and is selling our community – and the truth – short.
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