Push to keep young offenders on country

Young offenders in a town in Western Australia’s far north would be sent on a trek with Miriuwung and Gajerrong elders instead of being locked up in a detention centre under a proposal put forward by a native title organisation.

The MG Corporation, which represents the Miriuwung and Gajerrong people, has put the plan to WA Premier Mark McGowan and former WA Chief Justice Wayne Martin, who retired last Friday.

The Rangga-ranggab program, which means ‘to listen’, aims to offer Aboriginal children caught up in the justice system an alternative pathway, connecting them back to their country and culture.

The cultural trek would be an overnight camping journey through MG country that would include lessons in traditional hunting, gathering, fishing and cooking.

MG Corporation executive chairperson Lawford Benning said young people were being sent away to Banksia Hill Detention Centre in Perth—thousands of kilometres away—at an alarming rate.

“Indigenous young people in Kununurra are some of the most marginalised in Australia, suffering from years of intergenerational trauma, Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders and high levels of family violence,” he said.

“At Banksia Hill, our Miriuwung and Gajerrong children are far from their homes and culture and are not receiving the culturally appropriate care and support they need to overcome their barriers.

“The cultural trek would provide them with the opportunity to understand their country and start to build their self-identity.”

The corporation sees the Rangga-ranggab Program as the first phase of a strategy to rehabilitate young offenders while they remain on country, its partnerships co-ordinator Beth Rutter said.

The final stage would be a custom built, culturally appropriate “healing” facility which would serve as an alternative to Banksia Hill.

Mr McGowan’s office was contacted for comment, as was the Chief Justice’s office.

At the time of going to press, WA was still awaiting the appointment of a new Chief Justice.

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