Mass incarceration of First Nations people: the legacy of invasion for Australia’s criminal justice system


“The justice system is broken” is a common phrase heard in advocacy regarding the over-incarceration of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. However, today’s criminal justice system was built on colonial policies of dispossession, slavery, discrimination and oppression of First Nations peoples. Arguably, current mass incarceration of First Nations people, particularly Aboriginal women, is not a flaw in the system but a consequence flowing from its foundations in colonial invasion. 
Most women in prison are themselves victims of violence. The abuse of Aboriginal children in prisons around Australia has been repeatedly exposed, from Don Dale to Cleveland and most recently Adelaide Youth Training Centre, but has resulted in little political action. Aboriginal deaths in custody continue to occur, with a 29-year-old Yamatji woman fatally shot by police in September 2019. 12-year-old Dujuan Hoosan recently travelled to the United Nations to beg Australia to “stop cruelling 10-year-olds in prison”. But governments have failed to respond. 
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services have been told that their funding is to be mainstreamed into a single national mechanism with other legal providers. Recommendations from countless royal commissions, inquiries and inquests have been ignored. Instead, “tough on crime” policies and racialised biases continue to dominate the public narrative around criminal justice in Australia. In this context, what chance do First Nations people have for meaningful policy reform in criminal justice?
In this seminar, Roxanne Moore, Noongar woman & human rights lawyer, outlines the current opportunities and barriers for Aboriginal-led legal and policy reform for criminal justice in Australia. Roxanne will draw on her experiences at the Australian Human Rights Commission, Amnesty International Australia, Change the Record Coalition and at the Peak Body on National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services. 


Roxanne Moore is a Noongar woman and human rights lawyer from Margaret River in Western Australia. She is the Executive Officer for the National Peak body on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services (NATSILS). Previously, Roxanne was an Indigenous Rights Campaigner with Amnesty International Australia and Principal Advisor to Change the Record Coalition.  
Roxanne has worked for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner at the Australian Human Rights Commission, as Principal Associate to the Hon Chief Justice Wayne Martin AC QC; as a commercial litigator; and has international experience with UNHCR Jordan and New York University’s Global Justice Clinic. Roxanne studied law at the University of WA, and completed an LLM (International Legal Studies) at NYU, specialising in human rights law, as a 2013 Fulbright Western Australian Scholar.


Date & time

Wed 16 Oct 2019, 1.30–2.30pm


Jon Altman Rm 2145, 2nd floor, Copland Bld, 24 Kingsley Pl, ACTON


Roxanne Moore

Event series


Kaya Kaihe


Updated:  10 October 2019/Responsible Officer:  Centre Director/Page Contact:  CASS Marketing & Communications