Australians in and out of the justice system

Dr Diana Johns1, Dr Diana Onsando2, Ms Selba Luka3, Mr Mamadou Diamanka4, Professor John Braithwaite5

1University of Melbourne, Parkville, Australia, 2University of Melbourne, Parkville, Australia, 3Afri-Aus Care Inc., Dandenong, Australia, 4Australian and African Foundation for Retention and Opportunity (AAFRO), Melbourne, Australia, 5  The Australian National University, Canberra, Australia


Professor John Braithwaite will Chair this Roundtable.

Prof Braithwaite’s bio (if required):

  1. John Braithwaite’s scholarship seeks to design peacebuilding, crime prevention and regulation to reduce the amount of domination in the world. John has been active in the peace movement, the politics of development, the social movement for restorative justice, the labour movement and the consumer movement for 50 years in Australia and internationally. Since 2004 he has led a 25-year comparative project called Peacebuilding Compared (most recent book: Networked Governance of Freedom and Tyranny, 2012, with Charlesworth and Soares). His best-known research is on the ideas of responsive regulation and restorative justice. Reintegrative shaming has also been an important focus.

African-Australians’ over-representation in Victoria’s criminal justice system has drawn significant media attention and academic interest and motivated government efforts to engage with communities in developing effective responses to this problem and its underlying social issues. Yet there is little understanding or practice knowledge about the sociocultural barriers African Australians face, both in prison and in the community following their release. This roundtable discussion will draw on our combined academic and practitioner perspectives on the support needs of justice-involved African-Australians in Victoria. We will draw on our research data and support service provision with African-Australian young people and adults, including those in prison, released from custody, and navigating criminal justice processes (police, courts, youth justice and corrections orders) in the community.

As academics, we draw on findings of a research project on the post-release support needs of African Australians, aged 16 years and over, released from custody in Victoria. In this study, we apply a social-ecological framework to understand the role of family and community in the reintegration process. As practitioners, we draw on our work with young people and their families, through AAFRO and Afri-Aus Care.  We use the concept of Ubuntu to build and strengthen the capacity of community to give people hope and opportunities to live fulfilling and productive lives. As research partners, we explore how the concept of Ubuntu – the principle of interdependence and common humanity, captured in the saying ‘I am because we are’ – may provide a blueprint for connectedness and reintegration for communities across Victoria.


1. Diana Johns is Senior Lecturer in Criminology at the University of Melbourne. Her research interests include post-prison reintegration, restorative and therapeutic approaches, and the experience of young people and ‘vulnerable’ groups involved with the justice system. In recent research she has explored the effects of over-policing for African-background young people, and the criminalisation of South Sudanese young people in Victoria. Diana’s current research includes a focus on African-Australian young people’s experience of criminalisation and reintegration. Her collaborative writing projects include a co-authored book, #Africangangs: The Construction of a Law and Order Crisis (Weber et al., Emerald, due 2021).

2. Dr Gerald Onsando is the 2018 winner of David Biles Correctional Research Award. Dr Onsando is an active member of the African community in Victoria and an experienced researcher and program evaluator. He has significant experience in engaging with African communities in sociocultural, leadership, research, and evaluation contexts. Dr Onsando has published widely and presented research findings about African communities’ resettlement outcomes in Australia, including a research about ‘Experiences and perspectives of African prisoners in Victoria’. Dr Onsando is currently evaluating the Black Rhinos Basketball Program, a crime prevention program that supports African Australians at risk of offending or reoffending.

3. Selba Gondonza Luka is CEO/founder of Afri-Aus Care Inc. and co-founder of the Black Rhinos Basketball Club, based in Dandenong (SE Melbourne). Afri-Aus Care provides culturally-specific support services to African-Australian youth and families through sport, education, job pathways and women’s programs, in prison and the community. Originally from Malawi, and with a professional background as a Mental Health Clinician, Selba is a member of the Victorian Government’s African Australian Community Task Force and the Victorian Multicultural Commission Regional Advisory Committee. Inspired by her experiences of long-term domestic abuse and repairing a fractured family relationship, Selba founded Afri-Aus Care in 2015.

4. Mamadou Diamanka is CEO/Director of the Australian and African Foundation for Retention and Opportunity (AAFRO), which he founded in 2010. Mamadou is a youth worker whose focus is building bridges with the wider community and between diverse African groups. His work with young people and their families in education and training support has made him a key role model for young Africans in particular. AAFRO run a range of innovative programs for young people, including those in contact with the justice system, to help them to stay in school and acquire life-skills for the transition to work or further education.

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