Djirra welcomes the release of the Yoorrook Justice Commission report into Victoria’s Child Protection and Criminal Justice Systems and joins the Commissioners in requesting the immediate implementation of all 46 recommendations.
“The recommendations in this report come directly from Aboriginal people in Victoria sharing their deepest and most personal stories. The Premier committed to an overhaul of Victoria’s child protection system, and this report highlights why the only way forward is through listening to Aboriginal people. This report is truth telling that the Victorian government must not ignore,” Djirra CEO Antoinette Braybrook AM said.
The Report includes support for Djirra’s key call for the Victorian Government to establish and fund a mandatory child protection notification referral system, recommending that the Government invest in providing free early legal help and holistic support for Aboriginal women.
“Djirra has advocated for many years at the national and state levels for the establishment of a child protection notification and referral system. We welcome the recognition Yoorrook has given to the critical importance of early access to legal representation and holistic support to prevent children being taken from their Mums, families and communities,” Ms. Braybrook said.
Yoorrook’s Report acknowledges missed opportunities to provide early intervention and support, including to pregnant Aboriginal women when they are subject to an ‘unborn notification’, a pre-birth child protection report.
Djirra welcomes urgent reform in this area. We support the call for the Department of Families, Fairness and Housing to ensure that when a pre-birth report is made, an Aboriginal Legal Service must be notified to provide legal and non-legal support. In Victoria there are only two Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations providing legal services – the Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service and Djirra. Djirra is Victoria’s only state-wide specialist service that provides advice, legal representation and holistic wraparound support to Aboriginal women and their children experiencing family violence.
“Reports to child protection for unborn Aboriginal children are more than double the reports for other children. Rather than our women being able to experience the joys of pregnancy and looking forward to having a baby, many live in fear that their children will be taken.” Antoinette Braybrook AM said.
Ending the criminalisation of Aboriginal women is a priority for Djirra. Between 2010 and 2019, the number of Aboriginal women in prison on remand increased by 475%. We welcome the Report’s recommendations around decriminalising offences linked with disadvantage arising from poverty, homelessness, disability, mental health issues and other forms of social exclusion.
“Djirra sees how family violence is both a cause and consequence of Aboriginal women being criminalised and imprisoned. There is strong evidence showing that more and more Aboriginal women are being misidentified as perpetrators. Yoorrook has highlighted this important issue, and while no recommendation has been made Djirra is committed to working with the Victorian government to look at ways to address this. It is essential that the unique experiences of Aboriginal women are taken into account in any changes to the criminal justice system,” Ms. Braybrook said.
Also welcome is Yoorrook’s recommendation that the Victorian Government amend the Children, Youth and Families Act 2005 (Vic) ‘to allow the Children’s Court of Victoria to extend the timeframe of a Family Reunification Order where it is in the child’s best interest to do so’.
“Closing the door on reunification after two years is punitive and causes significant harm to mothers and their children. In our work we see firsthand the impact this has on Aboriginal mothers escaping family violence,” Ms. Braybrook said.
“Djirra has warned the Victorian Government for more than a decade that introducing an arbitrary timeframe for the permanent removal of children from their mums would be, and is, disastrous. Aboriginal children should be with their mums, and Djirra will continue to advocate for the permanency provisions to be abolished,” she said.
The Yoorrook Justice Commission is crucial to the process of bringing change and investment across the many issues experienced by First Nations people in Victoria.
“The report recommends a substantial investment in Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations for early intervention and prevention work to enable kids to remain with their Mums, families and communities. This is very much welcome.”
“We thank the Commissioners for providing a culturally safe space to hear the truth of Aboriginal women who have trusted their stories and safety with Djirra,” Ms. Braybrook said.