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Law Society #LawMatters: The Lore Law Project

Krista Dunstan writes for the Law Society of Western Australia regarding its Lore Law Project. Krista is Principal Policy Officer at the Department of Planning, Heritage and Lands, and has been a core member of the Lore Law Steering Group from the inception of the project. Krista is a Noongar woman; having grown up in Esperance, she relocated to Perth in 2008, and was admitted as a practising solicitor in 2012.

In late February, the McGowan government announced its ‘Our Priorities: Sharing Prosperity’ vision which included commitments to a safer community and Aboriginal wellbeing focused on “Reduc[ing] youth reoffending: By 2022-23, have no more than 50 per cent of young offenders return to detention within two years of release” and “Reduc[ing] the overrepresentation of Aboriginal people in custody: By 2028-29, reduce the number of Aboriginal adults in prison by 23 per cent from 2017-18 numbers” respectively.

One programme ahead of the curve in tackling these community issues is the Lore Law project; Lore Law is a Law Society of Western Australia project which acknowledges that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth often walk in two worlds. It is an unashamedly ambitious 25+ year intergenerational project that provides a long-term solution to reduce the high rates of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth contact with the WA justice system. The programme has worked towards building and training a strong Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Youth Leadership Team to facilitate a Human Centred Design (HCD) process with high risk communities. April 2019 will mark seven years of the evolution and development of the Lore Law project to reach the implementation phase that will commence this year. Project partners include Millennium Kids, Media on Mars, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Youth Leadership Team with support from Periscope Pictures and University to Community.

Using HCD and the co-design approach, Lore Law will build capacity in Aboriginal youth and communities, create Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth leaders, and build the relationships and networks between Aboriginal communities and relevant stakeholder organisations to deliver sustainable change. HCD encourages users to take ownership and genuinely recognises and values the contributions of participants. This facilitates the development of the kind of safe and nurturing environment necessary to encourage an in-depth conversation from not only those with relevant formal expertise or positions in the community, but also those with direct experience of the issues driving contact with the justice system.

Lore Law is founded on the belief that the tension between the two worlds experienced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth, and the lack of understanding of that tension by key stakeholders, is a significant driver in the overrepresentation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples in the WA justice system. Lore Law aims is to facilitate two-way awareness and understanding of Lore and Law in Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal communities through active and genuine engagement with all key stakeholders to create meaningful relationships and substantive change. A key focus is to empower Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth to engage with local issues rather than simply experience them and to meaningfully contribute to developing and implementing solutions.

Lore Law provides the cultural sensitivity, place based focus and flexibility needed to address this complexity and has four key drivers:

  1. Local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth identifying the underlying Lore and/or Law issues affecting individual communities.
  2. Working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth, Elders and local stakeholders to better understand and to address the identified Lore / Law issues.
  3. Creating a lasting and sustainable network of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth leaders, making a positive difference in communities.
  4. Providing a platform for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth leaders, Elders and their supporting community to engage with key stakeholders to build relationships and implement solutions.

Pilot workshops with students at Sevenoaks College and Gosnells PCYC, facilitated by Millennium Kids and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Youth Leadership Team, and supported by a broader mentoring programme, have generated several practical solutions to the locally identified issue of public transport fare evasion and accumulating fines including:

  • An app that allows young people to easily look up the status of their fines and allows them to make small contributions towards paying off the fines.
  • Alternative ways for young people to pay off their fines (e.g. recognised community work).
  • Empowering youth to better manage their finances, including easy and practical options for youth to credit their Smartrider or equivalent to avoid the fine (where possible).
  • Script writing and the development of a short film by the youth engaged in the project to provide them with useful skills, empower them to share and promote the project and therefore advocate on the issue in their own voice and allow active participation in the search to attract further funding to enact the solutions identified by the young people involved.

Having completed this pilot phase, Lore Law will now move to full implementation in two communities:

  • Armadale: three months completing the final stages of the Armadale Project. This project is currently seeking a final phase of funding in order to progress and initiate these initiatives.
  • Kalgoorlie-Boulder: two years working with three different groups. Lore Law has already held one Kalgoorlie workshop with 35 young people, which outlined Lore Law and what the project is working towards. The Project resonated with the youth that attended, who identified numerous law issues impacting their lives.

The Department of Justice’s Criminal Property Confiscation Grants Program recently provided a $200,000 grant for implementation in Kalgoorlie-Boulder. The Law Society is now sourcing the required matching funds to commence implementation.

With appropriate support and development, in the long term, the collaborative and co-design process of Lore Law will lead to a reduction in the rate of contact of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples with justice system in Western Australia. Key determinants of that success will be the empowerment of the affected youth in each target location and the development and support of relationships with key stakeholders in a position to make a positive difference in this space in the community.

The Law Society of Western Australia is the peak professional association for lawyers in WA. The Society is a not-for-profit association dedicated to the representation of its more than 4,000 members. The Society enhances the legal profession through its position as a respected leader and contributor on law reform, access to justice and the rule of law. The Society is widely acknowledged by the legal profession, government and the community as the voice of the legal profession in Western Australia. Find out more at www.lawsocietywa.asn.au.

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