The Pamela Denoon Lecture

'The importance of mothers and families in lowering the indigenous incarceration rate' by Josephine Cashman

The over-representation of Indigenous people in the criminal justice system nationally has been the subject of extensive documentation, criticism and concern since the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody in 1991. In this address, I argue that the key to solving high levels of Indigenous imprisonment is through a focus on families and mothers. It is important to consider the drivers of offending behaviours including drug and alcohol abuse, poor school retention and performance, poor health, and unemployment. But more importantly, we must ask why so many children enter the criminal justice system and placed into care, and why Indigenous women are victimised at such high levels. We need to move away from the rationale that positive change will only come from the provision of services, such as parenting and other health programs. Such services are important, however, it is vital to ensure that every child and mother has a safe home and the same opportunities as every other Australian.

The Pamela Denoon Lecture is an annual lecture on-campus which celebrates International Women's Day. It was inaugurated in 1989 which makes this the 28th lecture. Speakers have included politicians, academics and a few more well-known personalities such as Judy Horacek, Anne Summers and Julie McCrossin. The Lecture aims to inspire and motivate women to find out more about issues for women in Australia and encourage some of them to get involved in a local organisation that works to promote women's rights and other major women's issues.

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About the speaker

Josephine Cashman is a Worimi woman from New South Wales. She is a lawyer, businesswoman and social entrepreneur with more than 18 years of experience on working on projects to create social and economic empowerment with Indigenous communities.

In 2013, Josephine was appointed by the Prime Minister to the Indigenous Advisory Council and Chair of its Safe Communities Committee. More recently Josephine was appointed as Secretary of the Board of Directors at Gadigal Information Service.

As a lawyer, Josephine worked for more than nine years in the Australian courts and has worked in consultancy and voluntary roles for a variety of private, public and non-profit sector organisations. Josephine recently spoke at a special session on violence against Indigenous women and children at the United Nation's full Human Rights Council in Geneva and is widely acknowledged for her work at all levels of the community to help bring an end to violence.