Jesuit Social Services and NAAJA present the 5th National Justice Symposium

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Key information

  • Date
    28 July 2021
  • Time
    8.30am - 5.00pm (ACST)

5th National Justice Symposium

‘Youth at the Centre’

28 July 2021 | Mparntwe / Alice Springs and online

Jesuit Social Services and the North Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency (NAAJA) are pleased to be hosting the 5th National Justice Symposium.

Thirty years on from the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody and five years since the announcement of the Royal Commission into the protection and detention of children in the Northern Territory, First Nations children and young people remain overrepresented at all points in the Australian justice system.

Centring the voices and stories of First Nations young people and their communities, the 5th National Justice Symposium explores the ingredients for change, from the grassroots to the system level.

The day will include a series of keynotes and panel discussions, including conversations with young people, conversations with Elders, a focus on system reform, case studies of good practice, and finally, a look at the power of storytelling and community action.


Session 1 – Hearing from young people (9.00-9.30am)

We start the day hearing from young people across the Northern Territory – an invitation to ground ourselves in their stories, their hope and dreams, the challenges they face, and their ideas for change, as we move through the day.

Session 2 – Hearing from Elders (9.30-11.00am)

In Session 2, Elders from across the Northern Territory and other parts of the country share what they know works in caring for their kids. What keeps young people out of trouble? How should we respond when they do go down the wrong path, and what do they need to thrive?


Strong Grandmothers Group of the Central Desert Region

Elders, Baabayn Aboriginal Corporation, Western Sydney

Serena Dalton, founder of Grassroots Youth Engagement and NT Human Rights Award Recipient 2020

Session 3 – The possibility and fragility of reform (11.30-1.00pm)

International guests Clinton Lacey and Candice Jones join our Australian panellists, Cheryl Axleby and Phil Boulten SC to reflect on what it takes to transform a system.

Successes and challenges shared by Clinton and Candice pursuing a radical reduction in the number of youth incarcerated in the US, provide an opportunity for reflection on the reform journey in Australia – 30 years on from the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody and five years since the announcement of the Royal Commission into the Protection and Detention of Children in the NT.


Clinton Lacey, leads the Credible Messenger Mentoring Movement (C3M) and former Director of the District of Colombia Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services

Candice C. Jones, CEO of the Public Welfare Foundation and former director of the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice

Cheryl Axleby, Chair, Change the Record Coalition

Phil Boulten , Barrister and former Counsel assisting NAAJA in the Royal Commission into the Protection and Detention of Children in the Northern Territory

Session 4 – Doing justice differently – what’s working and why? (2.00-3.15pm)

This session takes a look at examples from Australia and New Zealand of better ways of doing justice. From early and holistic engagement with young people and families at the first signs of trouble, applications of restorative justice, respecting culture within the Court system, and empowering communities to determine responses to young people who offend, we unpack common elements of what works and why.


Muriel Bamblett, CEO, Victorian Aboriginal Child Care Agency

Craig Frean, Senior Practitioner, Jesuit Social Services

Genevieve Higgins, Manager, Community Justice Programs, Jesuit Social Services

David Woodroofe, Principal Legal Officer, North Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency

Anna Gill, Regional Managing Solicitor, North Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency

Judge Tony Fitzgerald, District Family and Youth Court Judge based in Auckland, New Zealand.

Session 5 – Leading change from the ground up (4.15-4.45pm)

Our final session offers two inspiring stories of the change that can happen when communities come together to take action. Olabud Doogethu (Kriol for ‘All of us, together’) is WA’s first Justice Reinvestment project – a project that is successfully reducing youth offending, but more importantly, grounded in the cultural leadership of Elders from across the remote Shire of Halls Creek.

Larrakia women Mililma May and Sharna Alley co-founded Uprising of the People, a Darwin
based-grassroots organisation building the movement of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people standing together against injustices in the Northern Territory. We conclude the day reflecting on the power of community and importance of solidarity.


Olabud Doogethu Justice Reinvestment Project

Mililma May, co-founder, Uprising of the People

Sharna Alley, co-founder, Uprising of the People

29 July Sector Workshop

Following the full-day Symposium, Katerina Gaita, Founder of Climate for Change, will facilitate a half-day facilitated Sector Workshop.

Representatives from non-government organisations (including legal, health and other social services), community groups, Elders, local government, academics and interested community members are encouraged to join us for the workshop, to turn the ideas and inspiration from Day 1 into a plan of action.

The workshop will give participants the opportunity to:

  • Reflect on key insights and inspirations from the Symposium and the application of these to their work.
  • Strengthen relationships among organisations and communities working on youth justice issues locally and nationally.
  • Share practice knowledge and examples of good work happening across the country.
  • Articulate a shared vision for youth justice reform in service of children and young people nationally, in particular addressing the overrepresentation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and families.

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