A post-criminological framework for Indigenous children’s wellbeing: an analysis of the NT Youth Justice Royal Commission

A/Prof. Thalia Anthony1
1Faculty Of Law, University Of Technology Sydney, Sydney, Australia

Criminology has classically relied on deviant characterisations of minority populations. This continues today internationally – as revealed in the 2017 Lammy Review (UK) – with a particular targeting of Indigenous peoples in settler colonial societies. This paper considers the penal segregation and torture of Aboriginal children in the Northern Territory, based on proceedings and findings of the Royal Commission into the Protection and Detention of Children. It argues that the Royal Commission applies a set of punitive assumptions that Aboriginal children in detention are deviant, disorderly and difficult to comprehend the state’s violence in detention. This narrow criminology frame prohibits the Commission’s capacity to consider responses outside of a criminal justice framework and hear to the viewpoints of Aboriginal witnesses about their needs for the wellbeing of their children. Ultimately, as reflected in the Final Report, the Royal Commission reinforces criminal justice responses and the role of the state in Indigenous peoples’ lives. A post-criminological framework that identifies the strengths of Indigenous knowledges and world views would challenge the sovereign position of the state and in doing so enable more meaningful and relevant support for Indigenous children, families and nations that is decentred from the state.


Dr Thalia Anthony is an Associate Professor in Law at the University of Technology Sydney who specialises in criminal law, settler colonial legal processes and Indigenous justice. Her book Indigenous People, Crime and Punishment explored the colonial gaze of courts and the state in relation to Indigenous Australians. She is currently the lead investigator on an ARC project on hearing Indigenous women’s voices in sentencing; and a chief investigator on the ARC projects on Indigenous justice mechanisms and the criminalisation of homelessness. She coordinates the criminal justice cluster at UTS and has co-convened the Indigenous Justice Research Network.


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