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  • Koori elder says ‘white man’s system’ of jail a failure

    2018 - 07.03

    Lenny Clarke. AN Aboriginal elder has lamented the number of Kooris in prison, calling it “the white man’s system” before reluctantly supporting the sentencing of a Portland man to 14 months in jail.
    Nanjing Night Net

    Aboriginal elder Lenny Clarke made the comments during a sitting of the Koori division of the Warrnambool Magistrates Court last week in which Shaun Cooper, 19, of Wellington Road, was sentenced for a wide range of offences.

    Mr Clarke agreed there was no option but for Cooper to be imprisoned, but added “I don’t believe in jail”.

    “It’s the white man’s system,” Mr Clarke said.

    “Far too many of our people are in jail. To be confined is a terrible thing.”

    Cooper pleaded guilty last September to reckless conduct endangering serious injury and driving offences.

    The case was adjourned to allow Cooper to comply with a community corrections order already in place for 42 previous driving, theft and burglary charges.

    However, in late February, Cooper breached the order and during the past fortnight had been charged with sex offences, including rape.

    Those charges are still progressing through the criminal justice system.

    Mr Clarke commented further on Aboriginal people in custody this week, saying a more holistic approach focused more on rehabilitation was needed when dealing with punishment.

    “My father Banjo called jail ‘the university of crime’,” he said.

    “After you go through that system you’re not wanted anywhere they end up unemployed and on alcohol and drugs for the rest of their lives and they become useless to themselves and their families and society.

    “We need a healing approach, for black and white, for all sections of society.”

    He said jail was “draconian” only suitable “for really hardened criminals and murderers … not little 16-year-olds”. “You could establish something with a more holistic approach, with health people and psychiatrists … and some alternative method to confinement,” Mr Clarke said, adding that indigenous communities and leaders needed to be involved.

    “We need to give these people life skills that really allow them to realise this is not the right way to live.”

    Mr Clarke said Aboriginal people needed to take more responsibility for the issues in their communities.

    “You can’t blame it all on white society we need to put the blame on ourselves also,” he said.

    “Aboriginal people can’t go on blaming everyone else (but also) we can’t do it on our own.”

    In the matter of Cooper, magistrate Peter Mellas pointed out that Cooper had been in court three or four times during the past year and only a jail term was appropriate punishment.

    Cooper was sentenced to serve 14 months in a youth justice centre, fined $1100 and disqualified from driving for 12 months. He is expected to serve a bit over half his sentence before being eligible for youth parole.

    The court heard that at 2.45pm on April 13 last year, Cooper was driving an unregistered car on a dirt road near Gorae at 130km/h when he applied the handbrake, causing the car to skid for 70 metres before it collided with a large gum tree.

    Four other occupants in the car were taken to hospital, including one who was flown to Melbourne with serious injuries.

    This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

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