We know that Indigenous young people in the criminal justice system are some of the most disadvantaged young people in Australia but Indigenous young people with cognitive disabilities and mental health issues face an even greater burden of disadvantage. They are faced with institutions that fail to pick up on their disabilities, services that do not cater to their needs and a culture where they are simply forgotten or put in the ‘too hard’ basket.
We decided to undertake this research because so little attention is paid to this group of young people whose needs are so great.
We have approached this problem with optimism that through early intervention and diversion we can do these young people’s needs justice rather than defaulting to a law and order position that results in further criminalisation of the vulnerable.
This report will look at the evidence on Indigenous young people with cognitive disabilities, map some of the services available and then based on consultations with experts, look at a variety of programs that show promise in helping these young people. This provides the basis for our best practice principles and recommendations.
I am glad to have brought some of these issues to light and look forward to sharing our findings with government departments, service providers and workers to develop a future for these forgotten young people.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner and Race Discrimination Commissioner