Professor Chris Cunneen has an international reputation as a leading criminologist specialising in Indigenous people and the law, juvenile justice, restorative justice, policing, prison issues and human rights.

Chris has been researching the arguments in relation to raising the Minimm age of Criminal Responsibility, taking keen consideration to the affects of Indigenous youth. His paper written in 2017 “Arguments for Raising the Minimum Age of Criminal Resposibility” has shown that there are effects to children who are slipping through the system and becoming caught in a repeat cycle of institutionalisation, that can cause greater harm in the long run.

The age of criminal responsibility is the primary legal barrier to criminalisation and thus entry into the criminal justice system.

Chris recently spoke at the National Conference on Indigenous Incarceration on the Tweed Coast and the area of mental illness and the avenues of looking after the welfare of our youth.

The statistics are overwhelming that in 2015-16 there were 878 under 14 year olds placed under community supervision in Australia and there were 599 under 14 year olds who went into juvenile detention throughout Australia in that one year. 67% were Indigenous children. More than two out of three youth, this is a staggering number of of Indigenous youth in the system at such an early stage.

Nationally the minimum age is 10 years old. Some Australian states set the MACR at 10 years in the mid-to late1970s (Queensland (1976), NSW (1977) and South Australia (1979)). However, only since the early 2000s has there been a uniform approach to the MACR in all Australian jurisdictions (Cunneen et al 2015: 250).

Chris, provides a number of reasons for raising the age: international comparisons; the protection of children’s rights; the limited ability of the common law doctrine of doli incapax to protect young children; child developmental arguments and issues of mental illness and cognitive impairment; criminological arguments relating to the failure of a criminalisation approach; and the views of juvenile justice practitioners. In addition, this paper argues that a low MACR adversely affects Indigenous children who comprise the majority of children under the age of 14 years who come before youth courts in Australia and are sentenced to either youth detention or a community-based sanction.


“This needs to be taken up from the community. The suggestion is to increase to 14 years, with exceptions on the serious offences.”




Nation Building with Alison Vivian

Dr Alison Vivian is a lawyer and Senior Researcher at the Jumbunna Institute of Indigenous Education and Research (Research Unit) at UTS. She has practised law in the areas of native title; refugee and humanitarian law and international human rights law, and has taught international human rights law. Since joining Jumbunna Research her main research has been with working on Nation Building with communities on their frameworks and the importance of building and strengthening communities. We caught up recently with Alison to learn more about Nation Building and the role the research has played in helping to support community.


Nation Building Course held in Sydney 2017

Podcast with Alison Vivian

Transcript of Podcast with Alison Vivian

I am Alison Vivian I am a researcher here at Jumbunna. I started here almost 10 years ago and I had been working at the federal court in native title so I guess when I first came I was interested in looking at some of the stuff that I had been doing in Native Title.

I first encountered nation building myself when I was a student at the university of Arizona. I came across this subject call Indigenous Nation Building and walked in the door and listened to what Manley Begay had to say and I thought, that is what I see at home. I know that there are nations at home and I know that they are sovereign nations exercising rights to self-determination and that is what he is talking about. So, I actually did a complete about face and haven’t been a conventional lawyer since.

I had known a bit about the Gunditjmara people because I was working at the federal court when they got their consent determination Gunditjmara people and Narrendgeri nation we had the great fortune that they agreed to partner with us.

They would come prepared with a united and collective starts and just in the way that you know that some of the things with the way they organised the consent determination and the way they organised themselves collectively made me think that they would be very interesting in terms of the research.

We talk about this new research,  nation building as new. Whereas in fact there is not a single thing that is new about it. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander nations like nations internationally have been organising themselves to determine their own futures forever. That is effectively what nation building is.

A common thread is that they have had enough, that they are seeking ways to remove themselves from government control that you know decade and decades of promises and talk of a new relationship is just not appropriate and I think the other thing is to, there is also, this recognition that nations can’t afford to be tied to short election cycles because it has the impact on their very existence. There kind of 7 generation planning that we hear about a lot means that they are looking for other ways of doing things.

So, it is the community that defines the boundaries of the collective. As I say, we have worked with collectives that identify themselves a nation and have an identity that extends back well before invasion, back before invasion by millennia. So it is their collective identity and the second thing is and this really comes out in the us research is that the governing arrangement that they are developing are those governing arrangement that suite the community, that suite the norms, the values, we refer to it as cultural legitimacy, that they actually suite that particular nation and they embody what the nation would consider proper in the ways that decisions are made and decisions are implemented .Whereas general corporate governance is about managing organisations.

There is lot of misunderstanding about governing in Australia because governance gets used so widely and because Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander collectives aren’t recognised as being a legal personality or a distinct existence as of right then we see collectives that in order to interact with the outside world do that through organisations. We find then there can be a real confusion about community organisation and community. So, our work is focused at that community level.





















Nation Building with Miriam Jorgensen

This year we were delighted to speak with Dr Miriam Jorgensen during her stay here in Sydney. Dr Miriam is a Researcher with Jumbunna when in Australia, but her main work is overseas as a Research Director for the University of Arizona Native Nations Institute and the Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development. Her work—in the US, Canada, and Australia—has addressed welfare policy, justice systems, land and natural resources, enterprise management, financial education, cultural institutions, and philanthropy. Listen to Jumbunna’s podcast to find out a little more about Dr Miriam as she discusses Nation Building here in Australia and back home in South Dakota.

Miriam 1

Dr Miriam Jorgensen


Podcast with Miriam Jorgensen


Transcript of Podcast with Miriam Jorgensen

My name is Miriam Jorgensen. And I am a professor of Indigenous Nation Building within the research unit at Jumbunna. And I’ve held that role for just over a year.

In 2013, we brought a group of Indigenous Australians to University of Arizona to participate in some of our programming. And then began, as much as we could, to bring people across to participate in programming here too, either as teachers, or as sharers of information. And we’re hoping that we’re laying the groundwork for increasing community-level and student interaction too.

There’s nothing I don’t think any more powerful than being able to directly share stories and experience, and to learn about those strategies from one another, on an individual basis and on a nation-to-nation basis. So, we’ve done some things like what we call Inter-Nation Summits that bring together Aboriginal Nations and have had representatives from North America at those, and are hoping that we’ll be able to have increasingly representatives from Indigenous Nations in Australia at some of those same kinds of in the United States.

In the United States, I grew up in the state of South Dakota. And South Dakota’s, population-wise, a very small state, right.  It’s barely got seven hundred thousand people. And when you look around the state, and certainly, when I was growing up, I’m 50 years old now, but when I was growing up, the only people of colour in the state were American Indians. Everybody else was kind of a German, or Norwegian, or Scandinavian, of some sort immigrant, and you know, if you were interested in issues that had to do with social justice, or you were interested in anything that had to do with race relations, they were American Indian issues.

So, I got really interested in American Indian issues, and certainly, in college, when I was then … I went away to college, but I was studying economic development. And I had a professor who was Palestinian, which actually ended up being relevant, because he could relate to these issues around colonization, and displacement, and encouraged me to say, “Okay, you know, most of this class is kind of focused on South American, Africa, and parts of Asian, but if you’re really interested in American Indian issues because of your growing up experience, that’s what you ought to be focusing on.”

So, I got really interested in just that framework of economic development, and I was an economist by training, but it became pretty clear as I continued my studies and got my feet wet in just being on the ground and doing practical work, that the kind of neoclassical economic development lens wasn’t the be-all, end-all for understanding what was going on with American Indians and Indigenous peoples at home.

Fairly soon, I began to work with some professors at Harvard who were doing new work that were saying, “What really matters is these issues around self-determination.” And the self-determination framework that seems to be most impactful is at the defined level of nation. And obviously, the US setting is different because of the recognition setting of tribes in native nations and native peoples. But the research work that they were undertaking that I became involved with pretty quickly demonstrated that when Indigenous nations were taking control of their own futures, were developing government structures that made sense to them, and that had legitimacy with their people, that they were able to take on a variety of issues that went far beyond economic development.

So, it became very clear quickly to me when I got an interest in American Indian issues, I got interested in development, that the way that those things progressed in Indigenous terms was through nation-building.

So, for those peoples, who have kind of self-identified into this, nation-building is framework that makes sense to them. I think that it’s difficult to argue that it is a framework that makes sense for everyone everywhere in Australia, because there are different ways that people have constituted themselves. And there have been overlays of federal and state policy that have caused peoples to be uprooted from the way they might have ancestrally or traditionally looked at things, as well.

I think the biggest thing for me is that you start to understand how nation-building is always growing. And here my vision of what nation-building is had expanded even more, of understanding how people are reminding themselves of traditional ways of doing and being that get built into their institutional structures. And it’s the importance of that foundational work. And it’s not that that’s not going on in the United States, it’s just that there has been much less of a connection between that work and governing work, and now we’re really seeing in the last decade a melding of that together to really bring that into the nation-building context has been so important. And to me, that’s what I’ve learned the most from Australia.

When you’re doing language and culture work, you’re doing governing work.  It just                                                      is that shaping preferences behind the scenes sort of work that’s sort of saying, “Here’s who we want to be as a people.” It’s about drawing that social boundary about who is us. You know, and welcoming people in or back in.

And those are things that tribes in the US have sometimes not been as good at. And there’s so much learning from Australia about that. And to me, just learning those things, expanding my understanding of nation-building around those topics, that’s what has been so beneficial about the experiences in Australia. And that I’m hoping to continue to learn even more about.

That’s the excitement about working with grassroots community here, is there’s not as much of that kind of baggage that’s been imposed, and there can be that free conversation of, “How did we used to do things? And that’s a dynamic and exciting environment to work in.



Double Jeopardy and the Bowraville Decision: Where to now?


by Craig Longman

Head, Legal Strategies and Snr Researcher

Jumbunna: Institute for Indigenous Education and Research (JIER), Research Unit
THIS IS AN EXCERPT OF THE ARTICLE Craig has written for Speaking Out ABC.
The link of which is below.

….The hearing before the Court of Criminal Appeal in December last year saw two central tenets of the criminal justice system in conflict: The fundamental nature of the rule against “double jeopardy” relied upon by the respondent (which provides that ordinarily a person who has been acquitted of an offence is protected by the principle and cannot be tried again for that offence), and the “public interest in ensuring that serious offences are brought to justice” relied upon by the Attorney-General.

In New South Wales prior to 2006, the principle of double jeopardy had no legislated exception.

Following the acquittal of the respondent for Evelyn’s death, however, the families started actively campaigning to change the law in NSW — and they succeeded.

So it is that since October 2006, it has been possible to apply to retry a person for a crime in particular circumstances.

However, until last year no-one had tested the changes. And until this week we had no decisions of the court on the interpretation of the law.

In a 90-page unanimous judgement, the Court of Criminal Appeal held that any application must be based, as a starting point, on evidence that was not available at the time of the former trial.

In so finding, they accepted the respondent’s legal argument that it was not sufficient that evidence not be admissible; it had to be, in practice, unable to (with the exercise of reasonable diligence) have been “tendered” or “brought forward” in the proceedings in which the person was acquitted.

The court held that the evidence that related to the killing of Colleen Walker was “available”, even if inadmissible, at the latter trial of Evelyn, and therefore could not be considered “fresh”.

So where to next for the families and community of Bowraville?

There is an avenue to a High Court application, however only the lawyers for the Attorney-General know what merit lies there.

Regardless of that outcome, in a politic such as ours that prioritises parliamentary sovereignty, there always remains the ability to legislate further changes to the law where the political will exists.

It is likely that, for now, the community’s eyes will turn to the NSW Parliament to see what its response will be to any renewed calls for action.

THE COMMUNITY IS HOLDING A RALLY AT NSW Parliament House on Thursday 20th September 10am. Come stand with them to find justice for their children.


Pacific Libraries consider UN Sustainable Development Goals at Fiji Summit

by Kirsten Thorpe

I recently attended the Pacific Libraries Summit in Fiji which was organised to bring together key regional stakeholders, library practitioners and INELI-Oceania innovators to advocate for the role of public libraries in the region. One of they key questions at the forum was How do libraries connect to the United Nations 2030 Agenda and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)?

INELI Oceania – a network of innovators across Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific

I had participated in INELI (International Network of Library Innovators) Oceania in Cohort 1 over 2014 to 2016. The Pacific Libraries Summit brought together members of Cohort 1 and Cohort 2, who were just completing their program. INELI Oceaniais a leadership program which aimed at developing innovative emerging leaders in public libraries throughout Australia, New Zealand, and the South Pacific. INELI Oceania was based on the highly successful International Network of Library Innovators (INELI), a project of the Global Libraries initiative of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Indigenous priorities with Libraries  and the UN Sustainable Development Goals

I was most interested in questions of how the UN SDGs relate to Indigenous priorities with libraries both here in Australia and in the Pacific. Many questions were raised around key issues such as the preservation of Elders stories, and the preservation of Indigenous languages at the forum. The Pacific Regional Branch of the International Council of Archives(PARBICA) has provided much support in the area specifically for the management and preservation of Pacific archive collections.


Visit to the National Archives of Fiji as part of a day tour of libraries and archives in Fiji

I am looking forward to seeing how IFLA – the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions– pursues the SDGs as priority areas whilst at the same time acknowledging priority areas that need to be developed specifically for Indigenous peoples and libraries. One of the key factors here will be managing the nuances around libraries and Indigenous worldviews and ways of knowing, which are often distinct from mainstream library practice.


Statement of Intent produced from Summit


The Summit produced a Statement of Intentas a result of the summit which looks at strengthening the impact of Pacific libraries as well as supporting Pacific libraries through collaborative networking and advocacy.

After the Apology in Tennant Creek

This article was published in the Koori Mail this month by Padraic Gibson

After the Apology, a feature length documentary written and directed by Indigenous filmmaker and academic Larissa Behrendt, is currently being screened in communities across Australia. There was a series of screenings in Tennant Creek in the Northern Territory on August 22-23. The “Stronger Families” program, run through Anyinginyi Aboriginal Health Corporation, hosted separate screenings for women and men. A public screening was also held during the evening in the local Peko Park.


The documentary explores the current crisis in Aboriginal child protection. More children are being forcibly taken from their families than at any time in Australian history and the numbers have more than doubled since former PM Kevin Rudd’s Apology to the Stolen Generations in 2008. After the Apology was produced by Pursekey Productions and lots of the research behind the film was done by the Jumbunna Institute for Indigenous Education and Research, where I work at the University of Technology Sydney. The film has a particular focus on the strong women leading a grass-roots protest movement for change, Grandmothers Against Removals.


The Grandmothers’ efforts to organise and fight to have children reunited with their families and their message about the need for self-determination in child welfare, was well received in Tennant Creek. The small town is currently in the middle of wave of child removals. I conducted interviews with community leaders and affected families after they had watched the film. Many people are confused, scared and deeply sad that so many children are being taken away, many placed in Alice Springs (500kms south of the town), or even further away, cut off from all contact with their extended families.


Child protection services in Tennant Creek have been the subject of intense public debate this year, following an horrific rape of a small child in February. A report by the NT Children’s Commissioner Colleen Gwynne, released in early May, documented an extensive history of neglect, homelessness, alcohol abuse and family violence in the family of the child victim. The report also showed that there were many efforts over the years made by extended family members to report risks, provide temporary care and keep the children safe.


Rather than look at how these family members or Aboriginal organisations could have been better engaged and supported to change the children’s circumstances, media reports and NT Government commentary bluntly called for more Aboriginal children to be taken into foster care. The Australian newspaper reported that fifteen children were taken from Tennant Creek in a single week in the wake of the report. This in a community with between 1500-2000 Aboriginal people. In the NT and across Australia, Aboriginal children are overwhelmingly removed for “neglect”, rather than physical or sexual abuse.


A number of local families* described to me the shock and awe tactics used to take children away in recent months. Child protection workers and police, sometimes in large parties, are turning up without warning and grabbing children, without any meaningful consultation with families.


Dianne Stokes Nampin, a Warlmanpa and Warumungu community leader who helped to organise the screenings said:


This is a really good movie that has hit us hard in Tennant Creek. We have a really sad feeling seeing our kids being chased and taken away by the police and welfare. We are all telling the stories of how our old people were taken away, part of the Stolen Generations. They came back to us after many years, with lots of stories about being raped and abused in the homes. Now there is another Stolen Generation happening. We are so worried for them. A lot of the families cried watching that movie, we are thinking about our kids. But we got the message now. We need to stand up and be strong and talk back to the [white people] taking our children. They need to be home with us.


There are many calls locally for urgent action to turn around the shocking living and social conditions experienced by many Aboriginal families, which impact heavily on child safety. According to a number of residents and service workers, the housing situation is the worst it has been for decades, with chronic overcrowding in dilapidated houses and many people sleeping rough. When the Community Development Employment Projects (CDEP) were cut in 2008, the town lost more than 300 jobs. Lack of opportunity is fuelling dangerous levels of alcohol consumption and family violence.


The strength of culture and language is a source of great pride for many Aboriginal people in the Tennant Creek region. Despite many challenges, strong voices are speaking up for change. One local grandfather who has had a number of his grandchildren removed this year* said:


They can’t keep taking us backwards, back to the days of the Stolen Generations. We want to be going forward. We want our kids here with us, going hunting for bush foods, with us at ceremony time. They can’t keep missing out, they are our future.


*Interviewees must remain anonymous due to current Children’s Court proceedings.


Padraic Gibson is a Senior Researcher at the Jumbunna Institute, University of Technology Sydney. He worked on After the Apology and is assisting with the roll out of community screenings. To organise a screening in your community, register your interest at http://aftertheapology.com/#take-action


‘Racism: It Stops With Me’

Industry Professor (Indigenous Workplace Diversity) Nareen Young was delighted to be asked to be one of a number of advocates for the Human Rights Commission’s ‘Racism: It Stops With Me’ campaign a few years ago and to be profiled by the Commission as a key advocate last week.

Industry Professor Young has worked around workplace diversity for many years and is very committed to the recognition of a culturally diverse Australia with the promotion of Indigenous culture it its core. Her work at Jumbunna in promoting Indigenous workforce diversity is key to this goal.


When she was asked how could Australia do better in fighting racism, Industry Professor Young shared this response:

“Leadership that rejects it and embraces the fullness of Australia’s cultural diversity, based in Indigenous culture and presence, every day, in every way, in everything it does. Sometimes this can take a while as confronting those sterotypes is difficult, but when the penny drops, it’s very interesting to see. For non-Indigenous Australians, learning that Blackfellas are not a second-class form of white culture, but a different and separate one, can also be confronting, but always worth it in the end.

Industry Professor Young also shared that she looked to her boss, Distinguished Professor Larissa Behrendt for inspiration and Mick Gooda.

“She is dogged and tireless at promoting justice for Indigenous people, unfailingly generous. Generosity is my favourite trait. Mick Gooda is another person of enormous generosity, and consistency. Consistency is my second favourite trait”.


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