Saturday, 18 February 2012

The Indigenous Voice

The Purpose of the Blog

This is the first entry for the Indigenous Criminologist, a new blog that privileges First Nation opinions and experiences of crime control policies, legislation and government responses to the so-called 'Indigenous problem'.

Each week an entry will be made on a topical crime control-related issue, as seen from an Indigenous perspective.  Some topics will arise from recent media commentary, others from the latest policy activities of government, research reports and interesting academic publications.  Links to reports, journal articles will be included as much as possible, particular those produced by Indigenous scholars.

Why is the Indigenous Perspective Important?
First Nation involvement in the criminal justice systems in all Settler Societies (namely New Zealand, Australia, Canada and the US) is one characterised by significant levels of over-representation in statistics related to all facets of the 'system', from arrest, sentencing, deaths in custody and imprisonment.  For example, in New Zealand Maori men and women make up approximately 50% of the prison population, while making up around 14.5% of the total population according to the 2006 Census.  The issue of Indigenous over-representation has received extensive attention from policy makers, academics and politicians.  Significant resources have been expended in an attempt to reduce criminal justice-related disparities.  Criminologists (who are predominantly non-Indigenous) in particular have expended a lot of energy on this issue, and many have made their careers and reputations writing and speaking about the Indigenous Other.  And yet, the one voice which is often absent or silenced in all this policy, legislation, books, articles, media noise, press statements.... are ours.  So much of this material is produced in the offices of academic institutions, in press rooms, by policy makers and Ministerial press secretaries, and more often than not, without any engagement with First Nations peoples.  Furthermore, despite all the attention from crime control experts, well meaning policy makers and the like, little improvement for First Nation peoples in their interactions with the agents of criminal justice.  For these reasons and others, it is time that the Indigenous voice was heard, and the privilege of commenting on our issues, transferred to us.

Next week, the first substantive blog will provide an 'outsiders' view of the recent media and political representation of the so-called 'Australia Day riots'.  Were the (mainly) Aboriginal protesters acting 'UnAustralian' as one commentator argued, or was it an example of the criminalisation of First Nation persons, a convenient distraction from the issues the Tent Embassy activists are attempting to draw our attention to?

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