CHAPTER EIGHT - Justice or Differential Treatment?  pp. 115-124

Justice or Differential Treatment?

By Fay Gale, Rebecca Bailey-Harris and Joy Wundersitz

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The juvenile justice system places its faith in the rehabilitation rather than the punishment of the individual child. In South Australia this trust rests in a process which seeks ‘to secure for the child such care, protection, control, correction or guidance as will best lead to the proper development of his personality and to his development into a responsible and useful member of the community’ (Children's Protection and Young Offenders Act 1979 section 7). But what does our society and its allimportant institution, the criminal justice process, really offer to Aboriginal youth?

Young Aborigines are grossly over-represented in every sector of the juvenile justice system. Not only is their rate of apprehension disproportionately high compared with their relative numbers in the South Australian population, but moreover, at every stage within the system where discretion operates and individual decisions must be taken by the various agents of the law, they are substantially more likely than any other group to receive the harsher of the outcomes available. On a per capita basis, they are significantly more likely to be arrested by police rather than reported; to be referred by Screening Panels to the Children's Court, rather than being given the benefit of diversion to an Aid Panel; and finally, once before the Court, they experience more detention orders than any other ethnic group in the community. This remains true even when Aboriginal youth is compared with other highly visible minority groups such as Asians.