CHAPTER FOUR - Profile of the Aboriginal Young Offender  pp. 43-60

Profile of the Aboriginal Young Offender

By Fay Gale, Rebecca Bailey-Harris and Joy Wundersitz

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The fact that young Aborigines participate in the juvenile justice system in South Australia in vastly disproportionate numbers and that their overrepresentation varies considerably from one location to another raises important questions. Are they over-represented because they are charged differently from other groups in society? Are their personal, social or locational characteristics so distinct from those of other youths that different treatment may be inevitable? Within the Aboriginal group itself are there regional differences in recorded offending behaviour which may be sufficient to account for the regional differences in treatment?

This chapter demonstrates that Aboriginal young offenders do differ from other young offenders, both in their legal history and their socioeconomic circumstances. These differences in the profiles of the two groups offer a potential explanation for the differential treatment of young Aborigines in the criminal justice process. But why such dramatic differences? How much of this is due to either overt or covert racism operating in the criminal justice process?

The Legal Profile

The legal profile of a young offender has three aspects: the crimes with which he or she is charged, the number of charges laid per appearance and the past criminal records. In all three, Aborigines differ from other youth. They are charged with more serious offences; they have more charges laid against them; and they are more likely to have a history of prior appearances before Aid Panels and the Children's Court than non-Aborigines.