Commending Tjillari Justice


I would like to bring to the attention of the Assembly the plight of the Tjillari Justice Aboriginal Corporation, one of the many organisations with limited income who have relied heavily on SHOUT and their services. With reference to the disappointing result from today's motion, I would like to highlight the wonderful work of just one of the organisations that have used the SHOUT premises, for meeting rooms and training facilities. This is yet another organisation that is going to have great difficulty in continuing to operate without them.

TJILLARI Justice Aboriginal Corporation exists to reduce the number of children transitioning from parental incarceration into the juvenile justice system, and on to adult offending. A not-for-profit organisation, they have been wholly dependent on self-generating funding and the generous support of others through grants and donations. One of those donations has come from the United States, yet this organisation, that does so much good work, cannot get the support from our own ACT government.

There is a significant problem in Australia. Each year more than 80,000 children annually experience the trauma and stress of having a parent in the Australian justice system. Of these, it is estimated that 70% will go on to become juvenile offenders, and more than 85% of these will also become adult offenders. The recent COAG Closing the Gap report states, that in the ACT, 19.4% of these prisoners are indigenous – and that number is growing. Research has shown that the toxic stress and repeated trauma of having a parent in prison has a significant effect on the development of the brain of young children, leading to offending behaviour as young people, and graduating to adult offending.

Tjillari Justice is working to break this cycle of intergenerational crime by working with vulnerable families, and offering them support for the psychological, social and educational needs of children with a parent in the justice system. They work to empower parents, carers, foster parents, grandparents, teachers and members of the community using proven, neurologically-based therapeutic approaches designed to break that cycle of intergenerational offending.

There is a significant gap in the ACT for the support of offender’s children and families. These families and the children, who are most vulnerable, do not receive support unless they are already in the Care and Protection system, yet the aim of the Tjillari system is to keep these children out the system, and in the care of their community.

Tjillari Justice was begun in 2014, but since its foundation has not had any government support or funding. In fact for the last 4 years, this hardy band of volunteer workers, who have worked tirelessly to support the needs of the Aboriginal community in this area, but cannot even get a meeting with the Minister for Indigenous Affairs, to discuss their needs, vision and aspirations. They need offices, they need access to meeting spaces, and they need a more regular source of funding, which could be drawn from the small grants program, which the Labor Government promised to establish on re-election.

Tjillari Justice does not work in isolation, working in partnership with Mary Mead, and till the recent closure, utilizing the services of SHOUT. We would like to commend this organisation to the Assembly, and hope that by bringing their needs to its attention, they will find the support needed to continue their excellent work.

[You can watch the replay of the speech on Assemblies on Demand]