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What is First Nations justice?

By Kishaya Delaney

This is a guest article by Kishaya Delaney.

CW: trauma, racism

Picture this: A new person, let’s call them ‘Alex’, moves into your hometown and starts attending your school. Given your family has lived in this small town for generations, you’re always sceptical of newcomers — but over the coming weeks, you get to know them. 

Alex starts visiting you at your house and is very interested in your family. After their first visit, you notice that Alex has taken your favourite jumper. The next time they come over, they take your TV, and the next time, they take your car keys. You come to realise that Alex comes from a very powerful family, so there is little you can do while Alex and their family take control of your belongings, your car, and even your house. 

The next time you see Alex at school, they’re wearing your jumper. When you get visibly upset about what’s happened, they tell you to forget about it, and that you’ll be better off without your belongings and should try to live the way that Alex and their family live instead. 

As you get older you realise that without your belongings or a roof over your head, your family and children also have to go without. Generation after generation, after such significant loss, you and your family have to continue working hard to regain what has been lost.

Our colonial past and present

While this story is a much lighter and unrealistic story compared to the reality of Australia’s history, it’s a helpful way to consider the perspectives of First Nations people and how the past impacts our lives today. 

Since the initial invasion and colonisation of Australia in 1788, the colony has stolen the land, children, and way of life of First Nations people. The impact of this loss is not something easily forgotten, as it continues to affect the way things are today. It has resulted in a lot of systemic issues, like systemic racism, which is when racism is enacted in  broader societal structures like the justice and education systems (rather than racism on an individual level). This is similar to how the historical oppression of women continues to affect the way the world works today, like the gender pay gap. As a result of what has happened in the past, many First Nations people also experience intergenerational trauma, which is where the effects of trauma are passed down from parent to child. 

Working towards First Nations justice

This is why First Nations justice is so important. To me, First Nations justice is about recognising and repairing:

  • Recognising how special it is that Australia is home to the oldest living civilisation in the world, the strength of First Nations communities over many generations, and our history and how it impacts things today.
  • Repairing the wounds caused by past policies, healing our communities through truth-telling, and preventing the same issues from happening again and again. First Nations justice is about a better future for our children and our children’s children.
Three people standing on the stage at the 2020 Invasion Day rally in Naarm/Melbourne. The protestor on the right is holding up a sign that reads "Ever stopped to look through our eyes?"
So what does First Nations justice actually look like? 

First Nations justice looks like real change in areas that affect First Nations people, like education, health, housing, employment, and criminal justice. It looks like stopping racism in our schools, communities and workplaces. It looks like First Nations people being respected and empowered to make decisions for our own communities. It looks like truth-telling across the country so that all Australians understand the truth of our past and how they can help shape a better future.

Taking action

There are a lot of great ways to get involved in advocating for First Nations justice. It’s important to remember two things: listen and learn

  • Listen: Always listen to First Nations people and communities — centre First Nations voices and perspectives, and ensure you are respecting cultural authority. 
  • Learn: Learn as much as you can about the history, culture, and experience of First Nations people. The more you learn, the more you can understand and contribute towards First Nations justice. 
Learn more

Check out the following resources to get started on your learning journey:


There are also so many incredible movements and communities around Australia working towards First Nations justice which you could get involved in:

  • Raising the Age: The campaign to raise the age of criminal responsibility from 10 to 14 years is about ensuring that children are kept out of prison. Think about what you were doing when you were 10 years old — could you even imagine being arrested and charged at that age? Evidence shows that locking kids up only harms them, and there are better ways to support young people who need it. Check out #RaiseTheAge to learn more. 
  • Support First Nations Businesses: You can help support First Nations economic justice by buying from and supporting Blak Businesses. Check out this list for some great recs!
  • Amnesty International Australia: AIA is an international human rights organisation that advocates for human rights around the world. There are plenty of ways for young people to get involved with AIA’s Indigenous Justice campaign.
  • Australian Youth Climate Coalition: Climate change is a major threat to the way we live and First Nations people should be at the forefront of the change needed for a healthier and sustainable society. Non-Indigenous people can get involved with AYCC to help make change, which works closely with SEED, Australia’s first Indigenous youth climate network. 

There are always going to be challenges when working towards First Nations justice. For many people, it’s a lifelong journey of learning, advocating, listening and giving. Thanks for joining us in the fight!

Kishaya smiling at the camera. She wears a black top and is standing before a tree.
About the author
Kishaya Delaney

Kishaya Delaney is a proud Wiradjuri woman from Orange, New South Wales and currently lives on Bidjigal land. As a Pro Bono Lawyer, Kishaya is passionate about First Nations justice and empowering First Nations communities and organisations. Kishaya previously worked as Project Officer for the Towards Truth project, leading a team of researchers to develop a law and policy mapping database to support truth-telling under the third reform of the Uluru Statement of the Heart.

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