‘Good kid, mad system’: exploring local solutions to Indigenous young peoples’ involvement with the justice system in Ceduna, South Australia

Dr Anthea S Krieg1,

1 Department for Communities & Social Inclusion, Community Services, L8 Riverside Building, North Tce, Adelaide, SA 5000


What would an integrated response to keep Indigenous young people out of the justice system look like?

And what would it take to effectively coordinate community service responses in a way that supports the work of a non-adversarial court?

In this presentation we describe a three-year project that explores these questions within the communities of Ceduna and the Far West in South Australia. This region has amongst the highest Indigenous detention and incarceration rates in the state.

Early in the project it became evident that young people most at risk of justice involvement were coping with multiple high-level complexities in their lives, including cognitive impairment, mental illness, family conflict and violence, substance misuse, child protection issues and housing insecurity, often simultaneously. For many, information across community-based services was rarely coordinated or made available to the court.

It also became clear that frequently, no-one involved in the circuit court process-police prosecutor, defence lawyer or magistrate-knew the client. Visiting magistrates were required to make potentially life-changing decisions for young people based on very limited information.

A range of systemic issues were identified that had the effect of channelling young people into the courts and into detention or prison.

In response, the inSYNC program was developed to recruit health, education, social and legal services to work closely together to better support some of the most vulnerable young people and their families.

Strengths and limitations of the project will be discussed with a view to progress models of community-based care that assist non-adversarial approaches to justice.

BIOGRAPHY- Dr Anthea Krieg

Anthea Krieg is a medical practitioner with over 25 years experience working with Aboriginal communities  in both urban and remote locations around Australia. She has extensive experience in mental health services, including acute psychiatry and community clinical services, drug & alcohol work, prisoner health and public health, with a strong interest in developing appropriate responses to trauma/abuse issues.

She has worked extensively within the prisons in South Australia, as a clinician and past Clinical Director of the SA Prison Health Service. She has advocated strongly for, and piloted, community-based programs for Aboriginal people and families at risk of engagement with the Justice system in SA.

She has an active research interest in understanding the role of improved health and social sector responses in reducing justice system involvement for Aboriginal peoples.

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