Koori task force to visit Shepparton

By John Lewis

Victoria's Commissioner for Aboriginal Children and Young People will visit Shepparton next week as part of a statewide probe into the high numbers of indigenous youths involved in Victoria's justice system.

Former Shepparton resident Justin Mohamed will visit the city as part of the Koori Youth Justice Taskforce — a recommendation of the 2017 Youth Justice Review.

Mr Mohamed's visit will also include discussions around the commission's Our Youth, Our Way inquiry due to be tabled in Victorian Parliament next March.

Mr Mohamed said the inquiry's focus was on talking to indigenous children and young people, their families and communities to get a broader picture, building on the data gathered by the task force on the specific youth justice involvement of indigenous children and young people in regional areas.

"This visit by the task force and the commission’s independent inquiry will be crucial in better understanding and addressing the over-representation of Aboriginal children and young people in the youth justice system in Victoria,'' Mr Mohamed said.

"Vitally, the solutions that will flow from our work are being informed by deep engagement with Aboriginal children and young people, families, communities, advocates and agencies, with connection to Aboriginal culture at the heart of the answers we are seeking.''

Mr Mohamed was the inaugural director of Shepparton's Academy of Sport, Health and Education. He was also chief executive and later chairperson of Rumbalara Aboriginal Co-operative.

Shepparton is the sixth of 13 regional forums slated for the task force across Victoria.

A joint report released last year by the Commission for Aboriginal Children and Young People and the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission revealed that in 2015-16, 198 young people, or 16 per cent of young people in the Victorian youth justice system, identified as indigenous. Yet indigenous young people comprise only 1.6 per cent of the Victorian population.

The report also stated that in Victoria, an indigenous young person is about 13 times more likely to be in detention than a non-indigenous young person.