Truth Telling with Lidia Thorpe

Justice for All with Keenan Mundine

March 15, 2022
Truth Telling with Lidia Thorpe
Justice for All with Keenan Mundine
Show Notes Transcript

CONTENT WARNING: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander listeners are advised that this podcast includes discussions about First Nations deaths in custody and incarceration. Reach out to your local Aboriginal health service if you are struggling with grief and trauma associated with these issues. 

In this episode Lidia yarns with Biripi and Wakka Wakka man and co-founder of Deadly Connections, Keenan Mundine. In this yarn Keenan shares his personal story and speaks about the importance of building communities not prisons. 

Keenan is a proud First Nations man with connections to the Biripi Nation and the Wakka Wakka Nations. Keenan had a rough start to his childhood after losing both parents at a young age, being placed in care, separated from his siblings. Keenan faced his own difficulties in life and made some poor decisions in his adolescence which resulted in his lengthy involvement with the justice system. Keenan found his passion in giving back to his community and working with people who have similar experiences to him. Keenan is the Deputy CEO and Co-Founder of Deadly Connections, an innovative, community led solution and response to the current mass incarceration and child protection crisis of First Nations people.

TAKE ACTION: Add your name to support the campaign for Truth and Treaty
LEARN: Listen to Thin Black Line (podcast): Presented by Muruwari man, Allan Clarke, this podcast tells the true story of the infamous 1993 death in custody of Aboriginal teenager Daniel Yock.

  • Deadly Connections works with Aboriginal children, young people, adults, families and communities to break intergenerational cycles of disadvantage and trauma – particularly those impacted by the child protection and/or justice systems.
  • Dhadjowa Foundation is a national grassroots organisation that's been established to provide strategic, coordinated and culturally appropriate support for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families whose loved ones have died in custody.They are a not-for-profit organisation that's independent from all government funding and rely solely on donations, fundraising and philanthropy. The Dhadjowa Foundation delivers grassroots support for families through three key activities, Peer Support; Financial assistance and Campaign capacity building. All of which will be family-led and founded in self-determination.

These recordings took place on the unceded sovereign lands of  the Wurundjeri  people of the Kulin Nation.

Connect with Senator Lidia Thorpe


Lidia  2:00  

Hello again everybody. This is another deadly truth telling podcast and today I am joined by Keenan Mundine. Keenan is the Deputy CEO and co founder of Deadly Connections. And he's a proud First Nations man with connections to the Biripi Nation of New South Wales, through his mother who is from Tari and the WakaWaka nation through his father, who is from Cherbourg. Keenan is the youngest of three boys born and raised on Gadigal land and Kanan grew up in Redfern notoriously known as the block. So Keenan knows what it's like to get around mob that's for sure. Keenan had a rough start to his childhood after losing both of his parents at a young age, and being placed in care and separated from his siblings can face his own difficulties in life and made some poor decisions in his adolescence, which resulted in his lengthy involvement with the justice system. Keenan found his passion and giving back to his community and working with people who have similar experiences to him. Keenan's journey has taken him to the United Nations in Switzerland, to address the Human Rights Council, and share his story so that they may lean on Australia's government to raise the age of criminal or legal responsibility. Brother Keenan, welcome. I'm just going to throw over to you and beyond about yourself.

Keenan  3:40  

Thank you so much for that introduction. And thank you for reaching out to me to not share my lived experience, but also the work that I do my passion and my hope for the future for more than my kids, man, far out and even know where else to start, like you told most of my sort of story. And I think the other thing that I like to sort of talk about is, you know, my community at the time was a big Aboriginal community here in the inner city of Sydney. There was a lot of stuff happening in my community as a child that I seen that formed my reality of what's normal within communities. And I'm still unlearning some of those situations and things that I seen and witnessed as a child. There was a big police presence in my community, even though it only consisted of two sort of main streets, Redfern Street, lower Street, and every street police would be patrolling like, day and night. And I thought it was normal. There was a lot of drugs and a lot of violence in my community as a child, which affected me a lot. There was a lot happening in my household, there was a lot happening in the front of my house at the back of my house in the laneway, behind my house, and I got to see the full effect of you know, poor mental health, poor living standards and living qualities, poor standards of living in houses, no doors on the roof, like sheets for curtains, shells that were broken, you know, no hot water, no electricity. But I think the biggest thing for me, which is hard to sort of come to grips with was, this was my home. And that's why I felt safe as a child. You know, my mum and my dad was there. When I was a child, my older siblings were there. And even though all this stuff was going on around me, like that's where I felt safe, and my nan sister lived a couple of doors up for me, my name is brother lived next door to me, my cousins lived down the road for me. And even though growing up in an environment like that, you know, I was still proud as a young little blak fella who didn't have much and, you know, my pride was instilled at that time by my elders and the people that were around me and watching all the marches and everything thay was going on as a kid. And then just to have these, you know, life events unfold in such a short time, and then to be separated. I was just trying to figure it all out, man. I didn't get any sort of through care. From the moment I lost my mum, there was no counseling. There was nothing. Me and my two older siblings, were just giving to my mum's brother, and he didn't have the skills at that time to take care of us. My father wasn't around. And it's not that I find it difficult to talk about, you know, my mum and my dad. It's still very raw. Not many people know the circumstances, so I think for our listeners, and for Mob out there, I'll go a little bit deeper. So my mum died from overdose and 12 months after that my father committed suicide. And my family have yet to sit down and have a mature conversation with me about my mum and my dad. They are, you know, their personalities. After the events and being separated from my siblings. I didn't have any belongings that kept me connected to my mum or my dad.

Keenan  6:39  

No photos, I had no family photo albums, I had nothing. I had no way of remembering them. I had no way of keeping them alive, and nothing was done, you know, around what I seen as a child and what I experienced as a child and it all came crashing down as a young teenager in my brain. started developing and I started moving around for high school and learning how to catch public transport and all of these things. So my natural inquisitive was like, you know, where's my brother's who's gonna take me to my brother's I want to see my brothers. And for many years, you know, I've kicked in scream and misbehave to let them know like, this is the only language that I can speak. They kept me from my brothers and, man, at the end of year 8, I left high school. So I was a pretty good rugby league player in my community, I enjoyed learning about culture, I enjoy learning about Aboriginal history, where my family's from, and I've walked out of the house out what 13 or 14 to go and look for my oldest sibling at that time. And the only way I knew where my brother was, because as a kid, I would eaves drop. And you know, the elders would have an yarns about my older brother, like, not good yarns that would run him down. And I was saying, you know, he's on the staff. He's doing these things, like writing him off, you know, my two older brothers were a bit more developed than me and understood what people did or didn't do for us at that time. I didn't listen to child. When I found him, when he was showing advanced signs of his trauma, he was heavily involved in the criminal justice system, it was heavily involved with drugs and alcohol. And from what I had as a little child, like, you know, a little child in care and most of their kids in care will understand where I'm coming from, you just drape of having your own family having your own bed. And that's what I kept in my head from eight years old when I took me from our siblings. And then at 14, when I found him, you know I was so far from what I sort of held on to like, if I just get to my brothers, everything will be alright, I'll feel safe again. I won't have to worry, I'm with my family. But he didn't have the skills to be that bigger brother at a time. And in the space of like three months, my life sort of tipped upside down. So I left school I was homeless, I was nobody's responsibility at that time, you know. People sort of wrote me off. And the skills that I was taught to take care of myself on the street by the older boys was take things that didn't belong to me. And that's how I ended up in the criminal justice system at a young age. And when I talked about like, take things that didn't belong me that like range from material objects and possessions, to just food and clothes, and money life at 14, like it's really hard to even think that I live this life. So my average day consisted of me waking up wherever I laid my head down, because I didn't have a home. So be at one of the boys his house. Or if it was too late to disturb anyone, I'd find somewhere a staircase just to sit in and pull my jumper over my knees and my legs. And I just sit in the corner where I felt safe. I'd always have an object on me to defend myself because, you know, this is what I got taught by the older boys, but I spent many nights sleeping and stairwells and parks and high rise laundry buildings because that's the way I could stay safe on the street car. So My average day look like when I wake up, if I'm hungry, I've got to go to Coles or I've got to go to Woolies, I've got to steal a feed. Now once I get a feed. Now I need to have a shell and clean myself. If I didn't have hygiene products, I'd have to go and steal a toothbrush, toothpaste after going steel roll on some jocks just to go and have a shower. And then if I wanted to keep up with my peers and take substances, then I'd have to go and commit another crime just to get substances. And then watching drugs and everything in my community. At 14. I started like most people just experimenting with alcohol. I didn't sort of smoke cigarettes at that time, because I was still like, infatuated with sports. And not many people smoked that I hung around. So I went straight from like the alcohol straight the weight. And then the older boys that were around me at that time, were already hitten the hard substances. So I was 14 I had 12 year old boys that I was committing crime they were veterans, they already went in at 10 Already done multiple stints in the boys zone, and they've got a heroin habit before me. So I was introduced for heroin for my peers. And that was through different mediums like smoking it on top of weed smoking on top of foil. And I didn't realise I had an actual heroin addiction until, not the first time but the time I got arrested to let me know I got an addiction. So I went to the boy's home and I was withdrawing. And I didn't know what it was. And you know, I had runny nose, I felt like she, I had diarrhea, I was vomiting everywhere. I couldn't keep anything down. And I was only like 15 years old. And that's when the doctor told me mate, you have a heroin habit. You're withdrawing from heroin. And I didn't know how to process that because my community have a special word for people that you know, engage in those substances, and they call them junkies. So I was effectively a 15 year old junkie.

Lidia  11:37  

So when you got in contact with the justice system, tell me about that experience.

Unknown Speaker  11:43  

Yeah, so like, I still remember my first night it was the most horrendous night of my life and it sort of broke my spirit and broke my beacon of hope and made me accept the reality that I'm living in because I told them my story Hold on What I'm carrying. And nobody heard me. Nobody felt me nobody understood what I was going through and basically, like made me in terms of my community experience, suck it up, it means nothing in here. Like, you know, everybody's in, everybody's got a story. And I'm like, well, that's not what I want. I don't want to be here, I want my mum, I want my dad. I never asked for this. I want my family, I want to feel safe. I want to travel, I want to go on holidays, I want to play my friends, I want to do all of these things that I'm watching and observing other people doing. And that began my lengthy involvement with the system because they didn't treat me they didn't. And after a day out, I think the third or fourth time of getting arrested as a juvenile, I didn't talk to anyone, I didn't talk to the police. I didn't do interviews. And when I'd go to the reception of the Youth Justice Center, I wouldn't even tell them who I am. Because it's all on the computer, why don't have to repeat it again. So for me, I kept just like slipping out of reality into my own space of surviving and dealing with my trauma and

Lidia  11:01  

there was no support by the system that you got put into

Keenan  11:06  

those absolutely nothing they heard, you know, my story over and over again, about how I lost my mum, how was taken from my brother's, I didn't get a formal diagnosis in these detention centers. Even though I spent nearly a majority of my good teenage years in juvenile justice. I didn't get a formal diagnosis, I didn't get to see a psychiatrist. But I think what's important for most listeners who aren't familiar with these systems is they're good at marketing and saying we have these things on offer. But really, all they have is one or two psychs on rotation for 300 young men. How many hours of therapy can you do with us in an environment like that, even if you market it and say you have I didn't see it in my time in there. They didn't equipment with any skills to understand my trauma and how it influences my decisions. They didn't give me any skills to go back to my community and protect myself and keep myself safe. They didn't give me any planning or skills to say, okay, young man, you're 15. And this is what you've experienced, when you're 30, you're still going to have that experience. If not, you know, more complex. Nobody in the youth justice system talks to young people as if they're going to grow into adults.

Lidia  14:16  

Yeah, that's right. So do you think that systemic racism plays a role here?

Keenan  14:24  

systemic racism is 100%, the driver that is keeping Aboriginal people and First Nations people engaged with the criminal justice, the mandatory protection system. And I think the easiest way to explain it is, when you enter these places, it's all deficit based measurements. So they talk about criminogenic needs, and being Aboriginal in itself is inherently criminogenic. So criminogenic means of risk of a being involved in a crime or committing a crime and just being Aboriginal is a risk or participating in crime. Because we're marginalised, were oppressed, we come from poor communities, we have poor health outcomes, we don't finish school. So being blak is a risk factor in the system.

Lidia  15:10  

We know this, right? We know this, we live it, we see it, we breathe it, our families are going through it, and you're going through it. And I feel your pain hey, and and I'm really thank you for sharing that story I just

Keenan  15:27  

This is like the Western philosophy in terms of like what exacerbates an individual's chance of breaking the law. But in actual practice, they're not criminogenic needs, they're like, being homeless is a criminal genic risk. Unemployed is a criminogenic risk. So they identify them, the department and the government, and there are no pathways to address them. So they will use this continually against you, when you commit and further offense and end up in the court and say, Your Honor, we don't want to release them because they criminogenic needs and their risk for the roof. They're homeless, they're Aboriginal, they're unemployed, they have poor supports. Okay, you've identified them, what are you gonna do about it? You have more money than charities and grassroots services, you are the department, your checkbook like is the Queen's checkbook. So it's limitless.

Lidia  16:17  

There's lot of stolen wealth in that account

Keenan  16:19  

and my biggest pickle is okay, you have this deficit way of measuring people's involvement and their risk, and they identify it, then they give it a category is that low, medium or high risk, but they do nothing about it. All it does is informed them on the level of scrutiny that you should be under when you come back to the community. So if you're a high risk offender, and your criminal genic needs for the roof, you have no time to even go to counseling and get a job because you're running through all of the criminogenic risk factors. And what they do is they make you go and do anger management, then they make you go and do parental programs. So you're doing all of these programs that quality life isn't improved. Your income isn't improving. So people then are still stuck on welfare in government housing. And that's not a sustainable way of living. So they go back to their old life, and they do what they always done. And this is how the cycle is perpetuated by the racial justice system, like the racist system that's set up for us to fail. All of these policies, laws, mandatory sentencings, are all just distant relatives of when the colony came over in 1788. There's no separation between this law that they're imposing now, and the law that they came and colonise this land with.

Lidia  17:37  

So very true, we're still oppressed in our own country. And it's more of a sophisticated genocide than a blatant, you know, shooting us dead. It's a slow death. And so we know the problem, you've identified the problem, and talked about the system and how that creates this problem or enables this problem. So tell me, from your experiences now, inside and outside of the system, as a young blak man with an incredible story, what do you do with all of that knowledge?

Unknown Speaker  18:18  

Well, that knowledge, you know, allowed me to share my experience and my knowledge, along with my wife's knowledge and her experience, and we co founded together an Aboriginal, not for profit to be able to work with mob who are impacted by these harmful systems, to be able to support them at whatever stage of life they're at, to be able to give them the skills that, you know, should have been given to me when I was in these institutions, how to navigate community, how to navigate systems, how to advocate for yourself, how do we empower mob to be their own agents of change, they don't need to be a co CEO like me. But if I can improve their better quality of life and get them in stable accommodation, and have a steady income and power on in the house and food in the cupboard, and over the last 10 years, the longest they've spent out of prison is six months, and I can get that to 12 months, I'm winning. I'm winning, because then the next time they come out, it might be 18 months, and might be 24 months, or it might be the last time they ever go back in

Lidia  19:20  

Are you seeing that? Are you seeing some changes,

Keenan  19:25  

we are seeing changes, but at the same time, we are seeing challenges and we are seeing a disservice that non Aboriginal organisations are doing for our mob. So particularly here in my community, we have a lot of non-Aboriginal organisations and charities and community groups. They've been in my community now for more than 30 or 40 years, and they haven't improved anyone's quality of life. I've got like grandparents and grandchildren that have gone on to the same service, who's still living in this community who was still on housing commission, still don't own a motor vehicle, who still don't own their license, they still have fines, but they walk into the service, and they get the lip service that they need and a pat on the back and a cuddle. But soon as they walk back out, they have to deal with everything out here what's going on, you know, navigating over policing, drug dealing in their community, violence in the community, you know, racist systems, and to be able to try and get them to have a look at the quality of life and how to improve it and show them my quality of life and how it's been improved. So I just try and you know, be humble and be grounded and be accessible to mob out here and give them that sort of education to say like, your mum went down and your name went down there. And now you're going on it, what are they really doing for yous? What are they really doing for yous?

Lidia  20:48  

Well, it's just incredible. And that's exactly what our young people need and the name of your organisation, "deadly connections". That's exactly what it is. And deadly for all our listeners out there. It's not something that's dangerous, although, you know, it can be sometimes depending on what context you put it in, but deadly is like really, really good or really excellent. And it's our way of just saying that something's working in our community and driven by you and your wife, brother, I just want to say congratulations on creating a place and a safe space for our people to come and connect and get information because the support isn't out there. It's been this welfare top down approach for far too long. And we want to be empowered. We want to be economically independent. We want to participate in this nation, but in a way that we're not dealing with all of the injustices that we face as blak people in this Country. So just another question, brother, what do you think about independent oversight of police and prisons in this country because I know mob in the system, I've got cousins locked up in the system. And a lot of these prisons, particularly in Victoria are privately owned. And they have, you know, places like Serco, who don't have a very good human rights track record, not only in Australia, but in other places around the world. So what's your view on this system? It's pretty much a cash cow for government, because it's the private prison arrangement, so the government make money out of it. What are your thoughts on that?

Keenan  22:46  

I'm for an independent body to investigate police in death in custody. I need more information, but I'm not in support of the LECC doing police investigations, because they're just another branch of the police. 

What's that? It's like an Independant?- 

Nah it's not. That's how that's how it's sold

Lidia  23:06  

Oh it's like a corruption yeah yeah--

Keenan  23:08  

Yeah it's how it's sold. So they're like, Okay, well, you don't want us to do it. So we're gonna get our other brother to do it. In terms of like deaths in custody and police brutality and human rights violations, I think the way forward would be an independent body elected by the community, not appointed by the department. Because, as you're well aware, we can ask for something in the government will just appoint whoever they want. We want it fully independent, we want to like voted and nominated by either organisations or by families who are part of that inquiry, they get to vote for an independent body.

Lidia  23:46  

And just on that brother, there are international examples where they are independent police oversight bodies, where it's not police investigating police. And that's the model that we've looked at as the greens to push here in this country to ensure that there's accountability and independence.

Keenan  24:08  

Second to that, because of the Aboriginal deaths in custody and the police brutality, we want to take individual action. So they can't pass the buck to an organisation rep or HR, and then they take it on. So if anything happens whilst you're on duty, and it's your responsibility, it's coming out of your wage. Yeah, that'll hold more accountability, then people will be more cautious at work because if there is a death, and that investigation happens, your wage stops. Or it gets subsidised and goes lower. And then people will be more informed on ways to work in these institutions. And they can't go, oh, well, these things happen here. And you know, what, if somebody dies tomorrow, no, like, you're responsible for them.

Lidia  24:53  

And given the fact that not one police officer has ever been held accountable for blak deaths in custody, we're almost at 500 Blak deaths in custody. And if we count the frontier wars, well, then we're talking about hundreds of 1000s. So in terms of blak deaths in custody, and the fact that the government with our great Prime Minister, who's very good at marketing, talks about already implementing most of the recommendations of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal deaths in custody. What are you thinking? Or what's your views on where this country is at when it comes to stopping Aboriginal people dying in the system?

Keenan  25:42  

I think there's two ways to approach what the information that you just shared with me. So if our prime minister is of the opinion that the government has implemented most of the recommendations, well, he's telling us that they're failing us like within that sentence right there. We've recommended it, but you're still dying. So me as a former incarcerated man, and now as a person who advocates for change, he just told us that they don't have a fucking clue what they're going on about. And we're in the worst position and people are still dying, we need to do something radically different.

Lidia  26:18  

He hasn't said all of the recommendations. He said almost all, some of those recommendations that haven't been implemented. One in particular, which I'm interested in your thoughts on, is around access and support to mental health in prison systems for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Surprise, surprise.

Keenan  26:43  

So the biggest thing that we're sort of having a conversation with now and there's another uncle in WA, Uncle Mervyn, at his have the same opinion that we should have Medicare all around, so not just in the community, it will have a bigger accountability in terms of The health space in prisons, because at the moment, they're independent of anyone, and they're not held to any accountability. And if anything happens, it's like, oh, that's a boo boo, sorry. You know, like, it's not good enough. I think we need a big transformation in terms of the mental health and the through care support in prisons. Like, once again, they're very good, they've got a lot of money they know how to market what they have on offer. But as opposed to the stacks of data of what's being given out, like I spoke about my time in youth detention and try and get to a counselor and a psych that's exacerbated in an adult prison. Because now, in maximum security, prison or medium maximum, you only have from nine o'clock to three o'clock, to give to a counselor, or a psychologist. That's without doing your own stuff. So without cleaning your room, going to wash your own and preparing your own breakfast in your own lunch. When do you get mental health support? Like what time? What does it look like? Is it 10 minutes? Is it an hour? Is it ongoing? Is it with the same clinician? Is it with another one? You know, I think the biggest thing from my journey in adult prison is they're under diagnosed, but over medicated, furiously over medicated. You know, they talk about drugs in prison. Yes, there is a lot of drugs in prison that come from the community. But there's also a lot of prescription drugs that come straight from the clinic. A lot of psych medication and any depressants that just gets shipped around in the yard.

Lidia  28:26  

So the system is not broken. There just is no system to support people. Is that right?

Keenan  26:34  

The system isn't designed for us. 

Lidia  28:36  


Keenan  28:37  

The system is designed perfectly to do what it's doing. It has the biggest expenditure here in Australia, in terms of just an entity and how much the government pulls into that entity, the criminal justice system like $9 billion, which is ridiculously crazy. I don't understand where we're getting that money from. And it's not stopping there because we're building more prisons.

Lidia  29:00  

Why do you think it's important? Or do you think it's important to raise the age of criminal legal responsibility and why?

Keenan  29:11  

I will give it my best best crack but the easiest way to explain it is a lot of these 10 to 14 year olds who are ending up in the system, they're not in there for racketeering, and, you know, importing copious amounts of drugs and studying at little motorcycle gangs, they're in it for like minor crimes, like minor behavioral issues, where in any other household, it will be looked at as a behavioral issue. But because most of our young mob are in either kinship care, or in the care of the state, their behaviors get criminalised. If they have a bad day, and they throw their glass that's damaged property, and you get a charge just for smashing the glass and saying, I've had enough of this effing bullshit, you know, those little behaviours get criminalised, and they end up in the prison. So what the majority of the society needs to know is, if that is the way in which we treat our most vulnerable children in the community. Once they end up in these places, you end up with a criminal record. And with that criminal record, you can't do much you can't get a job out here. There are no pathways to employment with a criminal record. You can't get insurance. You can't grow up to be a carer like myself, I'm the youngest of three boys, I've got a criminal record, my older brother has a child who's in state care. And I can't take him because of my criminal record. I might get upset because it's still like really raw. So that assessment happened five years ago when I was exiting the criminal justice system and trying to build a life for myself. And they basically excluded me and my wife because her address was on the assessment. And since that time, he's been taken and given back to his mum on no less than five occasions. He's been taken and given back to his nan on no less than three or four occasions. He's been to multiple schools. He's been in multiple care arrangements, so when he does enter the care system, they don't put him in a community near me. I'm in Redfern. When I came out of prison, I drove to Wollongong and picked him up. He spent the first three Christmases with me and my boys. And since the department getting heavily involve like that, he's been now with like eight different carers in about 20 different suburbs, and all of them are far away from me. So he was placed in Goldman(?). He was placed in Canberra, he was placed in Narendra(?) and I've been to Family Care meetings as a representative for him. And they still don't make it mandatory for whoever's operating my nephew's file to keep them engaged with me. So it's very difficult because he's now showing very, very signs of his trauma. And he's on the spectrum with Asperger's and his behaviors are being criminalised and he's only nine years old. They're writing him off already. He needs to be grounded in his family and community because the cycle is repeating itself. I've been through it. My oldest siblings are being tried and now I have to sit helplessly on the sidelines and watch my traumatise them fall apart.

Lidia  32:07  

Yeah, can I just let you know that I had my niece when she was nine, one of my sisters is a ice addict. And that little girl is doing okay now, but I had her when she was first taken. And I remember her body being stiff, just the trauma alone. So I share that load with you brother, and a lot of our people do, hey, and that's why we've got to maintain our strength, and stay grounded. And keep doing what we do that helps so many other of our mob.

Keenan  32:46  

So raising the age of like I said, we've spoken a little bit about, you know, behaviors and kids in care. But the other thing is like, if a young person goes in, in that most vulnerable timeframe, 10 to 14, and they stay engaged like myself into adulthood, it makes it that much harder to walk away from that life. And I can attest to that I came out at 25, I didn't have a Facebook account, I didn't have a bank account, I didn't have a tax file number, never had a resume never worked a day in my life. And I tried to build a life and nobody else has done that, that I know of, who's been as like deeply entrenched as me. And what it cemented is that the only pathway for a young person with a criminal record, because the government won't address it, is one of welfare dependency and one of like government handouts. And that is not a quality of life for a 10 year old boy to look forward to as a 25 year old man, someone who has to carry all of that trauma, deal with, you know, drug and alcohol abuse, and then come into the community and have no access to accommodation and employment. And I know that we may not see the full effect now of raising the age, but it may take us 5-10 years, to see the effect of raising the age of criminal responsibility for those vulnerable cohort to not get criminalised and get the skills to identify their trauma, and build relationships and maintain relationships and develop into a social adult who at least tells us (AND) doesn't be overcome and overwhelmed with their trauma.

Lidia  34:14  

Brother, have you got any examples of what's worked in community, for our young people, that gives us some hope. And that things that we can build on?

Keenan  34:25  

What works is Aboriginal led Community Solutions, you know, Aboriginal community controlled organisations, who are specialists in this area to work with our most vulnerable young people, and not to just work with the young person, but to work with mum and dad, because if he's been removed from Mum and Dad, we need to put holistic support because mum's carrying her stuff, Dad's carrying his stuff. Now, the little fella or little sister's carrying their stuff, we need to get them to heal together, we need to invest in the community. Because on average, if that young person between 10 and 14 spent 12 months in custody, that's $140,000. Why can't we invest $140,000 in treatment in 12 months to all three of those people involved, keeping them connected in the community, and getting them to understand what society expects from them as parents, as a young person who's been through that. So investing more in alternatives using the Royal Commission, as the last resort for imprisonment, rather than the first resort for imprisonment, changing policies and legislation, changing the way we deal with young people in out-of-home care. There are many different sort of pockets of solutions, that we have to look on a macro scale to get the micro scale and macro scale. So individuals, families, communities, then systems, then you know, society as a whole. That's the way we're gonna make it not be so horrendous for young people. 

Lidia  35:53  

And blakfellas do things in a holistic sense. Hey, and healing is holistic. So you can't fix a child with broken parents.

Keenan  36:04  

Yeah. And sending them back there.

Lidia  36:07  

Yeah. So we've got to look at the whole picture and bring the whole family and community into the space that looks after every element of that child. You know, it goes back to it takes a village to raise a child. That's how we operate as blak families and communities. And we have to build that community and family strong to be able to hold that child. So it's got to be looked at holistically. Hey. And so my final question is for the listeners out there, because there'll be a lot of people that listen to this and they'll be like, Oh my god, this is so bad, or, you know, what can I do? How can I help so can you tell the listeners how they can support the communities and not prisons campaign please,

Keenan  36:58  

The best thing to do is to move for Aboriginal community controlled organisations that work in the child protection and justice space, elevating and amplifying the work that they do, I asked them for money, but you know, donating directly to them, giving them resources. It doesn't always have to be money. It could be food vouchers. It could be old mobile phones, it could be old laptops, it could be old devices, and making sure that these grassroots organisations have a collective unity of community and supporters, that when somebody presents me with a challenge or a problem, together, we solve it. I think jumping online, checking out your local logs, who they are reaching out to them, asking them what they do, if they have time to talk to you about it, at deadly connections, we like to talk to volunteers and potential volunteers about what we do and how they can get involved and how they can help do fundraisers, community fundraisers, little things like that, then on a more systemic level is keeping your eye out. And don't ever underestimate the power of signature and petitions. So when seeing them, you know, things that align with your sort of outlook on life, sign them, contact your local members, especially around raising the age and keep concerned putting it back onto them, then, okay, we've got all of these signatures. Why are you still looking 10 years old, you convince us why you're locking young people up, because we're here telling you not to lock them up, and you just slam the door in our face.

Lidia  38:25  

And that's great advice. I think one final thing is let's give a plug for deadly connections. Because I think that you know, you're doing incredibly important job that is part of the solution. And it's a part of our way forward. So can you also tell our listeners how they can get involved in deadly connections?

Keenan  38:48  

Yeah, you can jump on our website and get in contact with us at www.deadly We have some very good socials, we've got like Facebook and Twitter. But our most traction comes from Instagram. And the ways in which I like to get people involved is you know, we have allies and accomplices and we love all our people to come along this journey with us, and every day to try and learn about Aboriginal people and history me myself as an Aboriginal man. And I believe yourself. We don't know everything about our mob, our community, our nation. And we are forever every day learning about our place in this society, about our place in our community, and as our place as Aboriginal people and what it means to be aboriginal, so continuing your education around Aboriginal issues, and befriending Aboriginal people and having Aboriginal conversations, we only make up 2.3% We can't convince the rest. We need our allies and accomplices to sit with us. raise the awareness and go back into their own private domains and challenge ignorant and racist people.

Lidia  39:54  

Spot on brother and that's a perfect way to end this deadly conversation connection. You just amazing. Stay strong, stay staunch, stay blak, and know that you know you've got my support, and that we're going to win this because when there's people like yourself raising other deadly strong, young people, they're going to have the biggest fight on their hands ever. So thank you for your time. And can't wait to meet here in the flesh and meet your beautiful wife because behind every deadly blak man there's always a deadly woman. So thanks very much.

Keenan  40:35  

Thank you for the time and thanks for reaching out and I hope we can educate and raise the awareness. Make the change. Thank you.


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