In Western Australia, indigenous children are a staggering 50 times more likely to end up in juvenile detention than white children.
In some cases those children are as young as 10 and, according to indigenous rights activists, they can end up caught in a cycle of incarceration for the rest of their lives. Most come from difficult backgrounds – from communities destroyed by poverty, crime, addiction and decades of government neglect. Youth suicide rates are high – and growing – and some fear a generation is being lost.
Activists, though, are fighting back. They are on the ground in disadvantaged indigenous communities providing legal advice and offering support to young people while they are in detention and after they are released. One group of volunteers patrols the nighttime streets, picking up intoxicated individuals and bringing them home before they draw the attention of police.
And these frontline activists have recently been inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement in the US. Indigenous Australians are more likely to go to prison than Black Americans, according to a 2019 study. They see other similarities with events in the US, too, as a community that is also suffering intergenerational trauma.
They have demands, most of which have not yet been met. But they are not giving up.
A new investigative film from Al Jazeera’s 101 East has examined this situation closely, meeting indigenous people who have been jailed, the activists who support them and the officials who they are trying to hold to account. In this episode of The Stream we will also meet indigenous campaigners and ask: how can life be improved for Australia’s indigenous peoples and, crucially, for the next generation?
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