5 June 2019

Western Australia’s police commissioner, Chris Dawson, has called for a dramatic expansion of community justice programs. A pilot restorative justice program at Bidyadanga involves diverting minor matters to be dealt with by Indigenous elders under the community’s ‘Lore Tree’. While locals do not see it as a panacea, police say it has had an impact by keeping young people out of the court system. While denying systemic racism exists in the WA justice system, Dawson says, “I strongly support these approaches, rather than truck or fly a young person to be remanded in custody some 2,000km south, taken off country, taken away from their parents and carers and their community, and expect that they’re going to come back better people for it… [T]here’s a vast volume of them where it does not make any sense to take them away from country, but that doesn’t mean taking away justice.” Meanwhile, Social Reinvestment WA has launched a podcast sharing the impact of the corrections system on young people, to highlight the flaws in the incarceration model and encourage government to seek more humane (and more effective) alternatives.