Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children move in and out of the child protection and youth justice systems with patchy or little legal representation. These children often come into contact with these systems due to intergeneration trauma, substance misuse, family violence, grief and loss and poor education and economic outcomes. Once they become part of these system they often rapidly move down a path of disconnected care, separation from their community and culture and perpetuate the existing cycles of poor education, poor economic and health outcomes and intermittent incarceration. A Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service [VALS] lawyer recent heard one 16-year-old child in Youth Justice say “I’m a lost cause, aren’t I?”
It is VALS’ intention for no child to ever feel like this so they decided to Balit Ngulu, which means Strong Voice, to provide legal assistance in the areas of youth justice, child protection, family law, and civil law issues to Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander youth across Victoria.
Balit Ngulu will aim to provide integrated and culturally appropriate services to Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander youth to address issues such as recidivism, cultural, family, education, employment, leadership so that they can be assured that they are not a lost cause and have a strong voice in their own affairs.
Balit Ngulu strives to
- Promote social justice for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth;
- Promote the right of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth to empowerment, identity and culture
- Ensure that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth enjoy their rights, are aware of their responsibilities under the law and have access to appropriate advice, assistance and representation;
- Reduce the disproportionate involvement of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth in the criminal justice and child protection systems; and
- Promote the review of legislation and other practices which discriminate against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth.