NAIDOC Week – Heal Country!
Thursday, 1 July 2021
NAIDOC Week runs from 4 to 14 July 2021. Despite all the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, NAIDOC week is a time to take pause and celebrate the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
This year’s theme – Heal Country! – calls for all of us to continue to seek greater protections for our Country’s lands, its waters, sacred sites and cultural heritage from exploitation, desecration, and destruction. Healing Country under this year’s theme means finally resolving many of the outstanding injustices which impact on the lives of our people.
The over incarceration of First Nations people represents a significant injustice – and a challenge to the rule of law. For the past 25 years, mandatory sentencing has been used by successive governments in WA, imposing minimum sentences for certain offences, and preventing judges from considering the personal circumstances and mitigating factors of each case. The Law Society of Western Australia remains firmly opposed to mandatory sentencing and continues to recommend implementing alternatives to mandatory sentencing, such as justice reinvestment strategies and diversionary non-custodial options, which may be more effective for reducing crime while remaining compatible with the rule of law and Australia’s human rights obligations. This is also the approach advocated for by former Western Australian Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia, Robert French AC, in the Justice Project which the Law Society of Western Australia strongly endorses.
The Law Society has updated and released two Briefing Papers on this issue, “Mandatory Sentencing” and “Mandatory Sentencing and How it Contributes to the Incarceration of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples in Western Australia” in July 2020. You can read more about Indigenous Legal Issues at the ‘Closing the Gap’ section of the Law Society website.
The Law Society encourages our members to take some time in this year’s NAIDOC week, to reflect on this opportunity for healing and reform.