In December 2022, Andria Symington, Kaurareg woman and cadet at Colin Biggers & Paisley, attended the National Indigenous Legal and Health Justice Conference. We spoke with Andria about her time at this three-day conference:
On 4 December I flew to Hobart, Tasmania on Palawa Peoples' land where I was lucky enough to attend the 2022 National Indigenous Legal and Health Justice Conference. This conference brought out raw emotion, understanding and cultural awareness about the treatment and needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in Australia.
Over the three-day conference I attended presentations about the importance of voice, treaty and truth telling, and specifically, the need for Indigenous people to have a voice in governmental decisions and the Constitution. There was also a debate between two incredible Indigenous Uncles about whether they saw a voice to Parliament or a treaty as the most important first step towards improving the health and wellbeing for Indigenous people in Australia.
Another key focus of the conference was the importance of keeping Indigenous children connected to culture, family and country and out of protective services and detention. This session emphasised the role society has in helping to break generational trauma and reconnect children with their roots and culture. It also expressed the importance of putting more resources into communities to keep Indigenous children safe through community-run early intervention measures rather than institutions that have disproportionately caused historical and continued trauma for Indigenous children and communities. When indigenous communities are in control, the outcomes for Indigenous children are stronger. On the other hand, those who are exposed to protective services at a young age are significantly more likely to be put through the youth justice system. 64% of Indigenous children in youth justice have, at some point in their childhood, experienced intervention by protective services.
More specific to the legal sphere, there were three key takeaways from this conference for providing culturally safe and effective legal assistance to Indigenous clients:
1. Acknowledging the past:
Many Indigenous people have been subject to racism, intergenerational trauma and abuse. In order to promote the healing process and create a culturally safe space in all areas of life, this history needs to be acknowledged and respected.
2. Community control:
Outcomes for Indigenous people and communities are best when community leads. For non-Indigneous people, this means taking a step back and supporting Indigenous people towards self-determination.
3. A holistic approach is required:
effective assistance will take into account the community, cultural and societal factors when advising and assisting Indigenous people.
We heard from Magistrate Reg Marron regarding his thoughts for solutions to a failed justice system in Australia. Magistrate Reg Marron implemented a structure for the sentencing of Indigenous people in order to best promote rehabilitation.
Suspended sentencing, minimum sentencing and applying home detention are some of the key considerations for sentencing Indigenous people to rehabilitiate, keep them within their community and connected to culture and family. Without these measures, Indigenous peolpe are at a much higher risk of recidivism.
I am grateful to have had this opportunity to connect with other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and allies, and I cannot wait to reconnect with them in the future. It has inspired me to pursue my future endeavours in protecting and representing the Indigenous community. With the opportunity to attend the national conference, I have connections and friends in Indigenous communities throughout Australia where one day I hope to travel and connect to country in these areas.