Saturday, 31 March 2018

Harry Tam - Engaging with Hard to Reach Communities

This post offers an opportunity for people to listen to Harry Tam, life-long member of the Mongrel Mob, staunch advocate for social development support for the poor, and those whanau and communities long neglected by the political class and policy makers of New Zealand.

Thursday, 1 February 2018

Juan Tauri - Presentation to the 2016 FIRE Symposium on Indigenous Justice

The following blog contains a video - a presentation by Juan Tauri (University of Wollongong) at the Forum for Indigenous Research Excellence symposium Decolonising Criminal Justice: Indigenous Perspectives on Social Harm, held at the University of Wollongong 24-25 November 2016.

The title of the presentation is: The Master's Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master's House: An Indigenous Critique of Criminology.  

Tuesday, 9 January 2018

Associate Professor Thalia Anthony and Professor Juanita Sherwood: presentation to the 2016 FIRE Symposium

The following blog contains a video - a presentation by Associate Professor Thalia Anthony (UTS) and Professor Juanita Sherwood (University of Sydney) at the Forum for Indigenous Research Excellence symposium Decolonising Criminal Justice: Indigenous Perspectives on Social Harm, held at the University of Wollongong 24-25 November 2016.

The title of the presentation  is: A Decolonising Critique of the Disciplining and Disciplinary Inwardness of Criminology.

Saturday, 9 December 2017

Professor Biko Agozino - keynote address to the Forum for Indigenous Research Excellence Symposium 2016

The following blog contains a video - a keynote speech by Professor Biko Agozino (Virginia Tech) at the Forum for Indigenous Research Excellence symposium Decolonising Criminal Justice: Indigenous Perspectives on Social Harm, held at the University of Wollongong 24-25 November 2016.

The title of the presentation is: The Withering Away of the Law: An Indigenous Perspective on the Decolonisation of the Criminal Justice System and Criminology. 

Saturday, 21 October 2017

Māori, Family Group Conferencing and the Mystifications of Restorative Justice

The following blog offers up text from a presentation by Paora Moyle (in absentia) and I, assisted on the day by Moana Jackson, at the Social Movement, Resistance, and Social Change Conference held at Massey University Albany, 6-8 September 2017.

Feted by the demi-gods of restorative justice, celebrated by advocates and policy entrepreneurs alike, the Family Group Conferencing (FGC) forum is often presented as reinvigorating the practice of ‘traditional' western restorative justice (RJ) processes, assisted by a respectful, judicious application of Indigenous philosophies and cultural practices. The FGC forum is also frequently depicted by RJ advocates as a culturally appropriate and empowering justice mechanism for indigenous peoples, including Māori. To date, however, there has been little empirical research that investigates these claims as they relate to the experiences of indigenous FGC service providers, and indigenous community members and representatives involved in FGC forums.

In this presentation, we offer primary research from one of the authors (Moyle) on Māori whānau (families) and community member’s experiences of the FGC forum. This research builds on Moyle’s (2013, 2014) previous work on Māori social worker experiences with FGC. We examine in detail Māori whānau and community member’s perspectives on the ability of the forum to enable them to have significant input into decisions regarding issues related to child care and protection, and youth justice issues. Drawing from this research we challenge claims made by RJ advocates and policy entrepreneurs that the forum offers Māori a culturally appropriate and empowerment justice process.

The Mystification of the Family Group Conference
Elsewhere we have argued that one of the marketing strategies utilised by members of the restorative justice industry, especially in setter colonial contexts, is the persistent, mythological representation of interventions like the FGC forum as being founded on Indigenous cultural principles and practice.  The functional perspective given to the role of myth in relation to the law is effectively summarised by Cavello who contends that myth operates to ‘construct reality by organising experience and perception, and that law’s reality appears to primarily express the perspective or mythology of a particular social group’. We argue that much of the restorative justice field within contemporary, globalised criminal justice lends itself to the power of a functional analysis of the role of myth in crime control, most especially the problematic elements of myth building and maintenance, namely the process of mystification.

In order to distinguish the functional role of mystification within the broader process of myth construction, Cavello (1992, pp. 29-30) writes that in contemporary societies, myth and mystification, while often co-existing, have opposite functions:

"[M]yth is used to clarify, to reveal truth, to explain sense and experience, and to guide people to a deeper understanding and appreciated of their reality - their individual selves, their society, their world - then mystification is employed to obfuscate, to confuse, to hide meaning and significance, or to imply it where there is none".

The purpose of mystifications in the RJ context is to make the movement, its objectives, its reason d'etre “seem inevitable, eternal, and externally produced”. One area where this process has been especially potent is in advocate’s claims that its core principles are imbued with, or founded upon, the philosophies and cultural practices of Indigenous peoples. This is a point Richards highlights when she observes that "[r]estorative justice’ is variously portrayed, for example, as being ‘consistent with indigenous custom, being ‘based on’ or ‘underpinned by’ indigenous customs, ‘arising out of’, ‘being fed by’, ‘owing a debt to’ or being ‘embedded in’ indigenous traditions, and/or having been ‘established by’ indigenous communities".

We contend that it is through the activities of advocates of the FGC that we observe the practice and impact of the mystification process writ large, especially when advocates of the forum claim that:
1) Construction of the Act that introduced the FGC was influenced by Māori concerns for the prevalence of institutionally racist and culturally inappropriate practices within the New Zealand criminal justice system;
2) Because the FGC and Māori justice protocols both share ‘restorative elements’ – indeed the FGC components derive directly from Māori, its use demonstrates the ability of the formal system to culturally sensitise itself, and address the justice needs of Māori in meaningful ways; and
3) That it was designed in part to enable Māori families/communities to manage the response to Māori youth offending (more about this issue later).

The persistent mystification of the FGC forum has resulted in the alleged Indigenous foundations of the forum acquiring the status of an uncontestable ‘truth’. This situation persists despite growing critical research and literature that exposes the imprecision of the aforementioned origin myths, including Mike Doolan’s (2005, p. 1), one of the primary architects of the 1989 legislation, admission that “those of us who were involved in the policy development process leading up to the new law had never heard of restorative justice”. Doolan (2005, p. 1) further acknowledges that the primary goals of the forum were to hold youth offenders responsible for their offending behaviour, and reduce referrals to the Youth Court, and not to provide Māori whānau with an avenue to “control responses to the offending of their youth”.  Today we seek to problematise the mystification of the FGC forum as it relates to oft-repeated claims of cultural appropriateness and empowerment of Māori. We situate our claims in prior research from Moyle, in primary research presented here for the first time. Over the past two and a half decades these claims have been consistently replicated in a significant amount of criminological literature.

Exposing the Gap Between Mystification and Lived Experience
Thematic analysis of the interviews with Māori practitioners (Moyle, 2013; 2014) and preliminary findings from ongoing research with whānau  participants, identified a number of key themes, two of which we will discuss here, namely a lack of cultural responsiveness, and the mystical origins of the FGC.

A Lack of Cultural Responsiveness and Capability
In the first of the two projects undertaken by Moyle, Māori practitioners involved in criminal justice and child care and protection were asked about their experiences of the FGC as practiced in New Zealand. Participants' reported that in many instances FGC involving Māori clients was often impacted by a lack of cultural competence by non-Māori professionals involved.  This, along with what they believed was the biased application of rules, created significant barriers for whānau in attaining positive outcomes from the process. 

Several of the participants spoke about the inappropriate conduct of officials involved in the FGC process. They reported this as flowing form the eurocentric, monoculturalist foundations of New Zealand' youth justice and the statutory social work systems, which has resulted in a 'one world view, one size fits all' standardised approach to engaging with a socio-culturally diverse clientele. Imported risk assessment tools were viewed as particularly problematic because their construction rendered practitioners incapable of considering relevant historical factors (i.e. colonisation), and contemporary factors (i.e. institutional racism and systemic bias) that participants believe contribute to Māori over-representation in New Zealand's criminal justice and child care and protection systems.

While participants shared some positive accounts of the FGC experience, overall their engagement with practice was negative. For example, a key findings from the whānau project was that by-and-large, mainstream non-Māori social workers did not know how to engage with them. For example, participant 19 stated that:

"The family group conference is about as restorative as it is culturally sensitive.... in the same way Pakeha [European] social workers believe they are competent enough to work with our people.... Pakeha think they're the natural ordinary community against which all other ethnicities are measured".

Participant 7 also commented that:

"In the FGC we were talking about how ‘Pākeha’ the caregiver training was when most kids in care are Māori. The social worker said, “our training teaches all prospective parents how to be culturally sensitive... culture is important to us (to child protection) but the health and wellbeing of a child must come first.” Like, being Māori is secondary, an add-on, or a choice!"

Moyle’s (2013) research with Māori practitioners showed that mainstream social workers, despite being professionally accredited as culturally competent to work with Māori, often did not understand, value or put into practice fundamental elements of a Māori worldview, such as whakapapa (genealogy/family connections). Often they did not understand that whakapapa is more than just genealogy, and is in fact fundamental to a Māori child’s cultural and spiritual identity, long term development and wellbeing. Consequently, those social workers may not reasonably investigate family connected to a Māori child. The implication of this, an issue also identified by Pakura (2005), is that it hinders the potential for enhanced and meaningful whānau involvement in the FGC process.

The Mystical Origins of the Family Group Conferencing Forum
A further thread of FGC disempowerment for Māori was linkages between the idealised origin myths of the FGC, and the actual practice of conferencing. Participants in Moyle’s research talked about how Māori have been indoctrinated with the FGC’s potential to be culturally responsive because it was presented as based on a Māori model of restorative justice. While some participants agreed with this representation, most did not, including participant 4 in Moyle’s current research with whānau, presented here, who stated that the “family group conferencing was never a Māori process... (laughing) the Pākehā took the whānau hui, colonised it and then cheekily sold it back to the native”.

While policy entrepreneurs and RJ advocates often represent the FGC as culturally appropriate and ‘Indigenous inspired’, the majority of Moyle’s research participants in both her practitioner and whānau projects experience align with the view of Māori commentators such as Love (2002) and Tauri (1998) that the process is as an attempt by the state to Indigenise child care and protection and youth justice through the co-option of Māori cultural practices. While it is possible to argue that the state members of the RJ industry have successfully mystified the forum, the largely symbolic use of Māori culture has not translated to effective practice, with the majority of participants from Moyle’s current research with whānau participants describing the process as culturally inappropriate and disempowering. Participants align this critique with the way that forum-related practice undermined and even at times excluded Māori cultural expertise. This shortcoming in practice is exemplified through the experiences of participant 21, a kaumatua (elder, who commented that:

"CYF (Child Youth & Family) said I couldn’t attend the FGC because I wasn’t whānau. But the whānau wanted a tikanga process and I was the kaumatua. Then the next week CYFs ring and ask me to attend a different FGC... talk about ‘dial a kaumatua'!"

What do Māori Want?
Moyle’s (2013, 2014) recent studies as well as the research with Māori practitioners and whānau participants presented here demonstrate that many experience the FGC as culturally inappropriate and disempowering, as ‘enforcement-based’ rather than ‘strength-based’. Given that this is their experience, it begs the question what do Māori want to make the process more meaningful?

Participants identified a range of policy changes and alterations to FGC practice they believe would enhance outcomes for their whānau and communities. The first significant change relates to the way in which youth justice and child care and protection policy is developed. Specifically, participants wanted policy makers to reconsider their preference for importing socially and culturally inappropriate interventions and instead, work directly with Māori communities to develop effective solutions that reflect New Zealand’s indigenous context. In terms of FGC process, participants wanted power sharing partnerships developed between the service agencies and Māori communities and providers. They also stressed the need for greater emphasis on community-based initiatives to deliver real changes in the lives of Māori participants, as opposed to the current preference for a top-down, managerialist approach to programme delivery, and over-emphasis on administrative, measurable outcomes such as fiscal responsibility and individual accountability.

Simply put, for the FGC forum to work as a culturally responsive, empowering and whānau inclusive process for Māori participants, it must be delivered by, or at the very least reflect the needs and cultural contexts of the communities within which it is practiced. For any intervention to be effective for whānau (i.e. the FGC), Māori need to be involved in its development and delivery: from identification of community needs, to designing and directly delivering those programmes themselves. They also need to be involved at all stages of programme development, change and local evaluation of these. We believe a good place to begin the process of making the forum meaningful would be a conscious effort by leaders in the youth justice and child protection sectors to seriously consider the issues raised by Māori participants in Moyle’s recent (2013, 2014) research and reported in this presentation.

Cavello, L (1992) The Mythologies of Law: A Postmodern Assessment. Master's thesis, York University, Ontario.
Doolan, M (2005) Restorative Practices and Family Empowerment: Both/And or Either/Or? Retrieved 8 August from
Love, C (2002) Maori Perspectives on Collaboration and Colonisation in Contemporary Aotearoa/New Zealand Child and Family Welfare Policies and Practices, paper presented at the Policy Partnerships Conference, Wilfrid Laurier University, Waterloo, June.
Moyle, P (2013) From Family Group Conferencing to Whanau Ora: Maori Social Workers Talk about their Experiences. Master's Thesis, Massey University, Palmerston North.
Moyle, P (2014) Maori Social Workers Experiences of Care and Protection: A Selection of Findings, Te Komako: Social Work Review, 26(1): 55-64.
Pakura, S (2005) The Family Group Conference 14-Year Journey: Celebrating Successes, Learning from Lessons, Embracing the Challenges.  Paper presented at the American Humane Association's Family Group Decision Making conference, Harrisburg, Pennslyvania, 6-9 June.
Tauri, J (1998) Family Group Conferences: A Case Study in the Indigenisation of New Zealand's Justice System, Current Issues in Criminal Justice, 10(2): 168-182.

Thursday, 28 September 2017

Challenging the Neo-Liberal Academy and the Bigotry of Australasian Criminology

The following blog provides the full text of my plenary presentation at the recent Social Movement, Resistance and Social Change conference held at Massey University, Albany Campus, Auckland 6-8 September 2017


At the beginning of the 20th century, the African American scholar and researcher, Du Bois stated that the most significant problem that the fledgling social sciences would have to contend with throughout the coming century was the colour-line. By the term colour-line, Du Bois was referring to the state of relations between white and black, between Black American’s and the institutions that support white privilege and white supremacy, including the criminal justice system. Du Bois’ statement was not simply an attempt at far-sighted prediction, but a call to arms for social scientists and researchers to focus their collective efforts on the continued subjugation of Black Americans in the U.S. One could argue that a similar focus was necessary in the Settler-Colonial jurisdictions of New Zealand and Australia, herein referred to as ‘Australasia’.

Now let us leap forward in time, to 2010, where we find the Nigerian criminologist Biko Agozino, forcefully arguing that the discipline of criminology is a control freak, a white privilege-dominated social control fanatic whose epistemological foundations were laid during the colonialisation of Africa, North America and the Pacific, a history that provides the basis for understanding the disciplines continued role in Indigenous subjugation. It will come as no surprise to some of you to hear me say that I am in total agreement with Biko on this issue, as the discipline has long approached Indigenous peoples as problem populations in need of significant social management through:

  • targeted surveillance (especially through racialised policing);
  • geographical containment (in reservations and boarding schools to begin with, and of late via the prison industrial complex of late modernity); and
  • ‘correction’ through a liberal dose of the gift of western knowledge, usually in the form of psycho-therapeutic programmes and other, similar Eurocentric interventions. 

I have two objectives today: Firstly: to reveal the colonial foundations of the discipline of criminology, a fact, a ‘happening’ about which most of its disciples appear ignorant of, or choose the comfort of collective amnesia, a convenient forgetfulness that allows them to portray themselves as ‘objective’ commentators on the Indigenous issues. Secondly: I will argue that the discipline of criminology has indeed become a control freak, with many of its adherents working tirelessly, and with prejudice to protect their hegemony over the production of what their key sponsor, the settler-colonial state defines as  ‘legitimate knowledge’ about crime and crime control, most especially in relation to the ‘Indigenous problem’. I will endeavour to reveal the disciplines control freak tendencies by employing Agamben’s theory of the State of Exception to critically analyse the role the discipline of criminology plays in this process, with reference to what I call the Three Pillars of Exception and Exclusion in Australasian Criminology. But first I want to make some comments about the colonial foundations of the discipline of criminology.

A Comment on the Colonial Foundations of Criminology

It is a well-worn refrain of historians, and some social scientists, that in order to understand the present you need to understand the past. And so it is with attempting to ‘know’ why a community of scholars, in this case criminologists, conduct themselves in certain ways today. Harry Blagg, Biko Agozino, Chris Cunneen, amongst others, have drawn attention to the historical connections between the development of criminology and criminal justice in the  and 19th and early 20th century centuries, and the inter-related projects of colonialism and Western imperialism. And yet, despite all this critical analysis, Australasian criminologists generally operate without a theory of colonialism and its effects on Indigenous peoples, most especially the not insignificant, growing group of non-Indigenous criminologists specialising in what they call ‘Indigenous justice’. 

Biko Agozino, in his 2003 book Counter Colonial Criminology: A Critique of Imperialist Reason, demonstrates how the developing disciplines of criminology and psychology trialled their theories and related social and control policies and interventions, on the dispossessed and suppressed First Peoples of Africa, before taking what they learnt and refining them for use on the social damned of Europe, the poor, the travellers, Jewish communities, to name but a few. The lack of awareness of, or willingness to confront its colonial past, is a fundamental weakness of neoliberal ‘mainstream’ criminology; a weakness that makes many of its adherents blind to the intersectional drivers of contemporary Indigenous over-representation.

Especially concerning for those of us working in the field of Indigenous justice, is that ‘Western’ criminology appears to be largely immune to the pleadings of Agozino, Cunneen and others, that it extricate itself from yet another related blind spot that many of its adherents suffer from; namely its role as a Colonial Project that supports the Settler-Colonial states continued subjugation of Indigenous people. As the saying goes, people who ignore the lessons of the past are bound to repeat them. Although of course, that refrain is predicated on a belief that people in general and the Settler-Colonial state and white privileged criminologists specifically, are capable of recognising that their failed policies, legislation, interventions, even theories, as ‘mistakes’, as being the cause, partial or wholly, of social injustice, dispossession, social exclusion, and genocide. I contend that deep down, in their quiet, contemplative moments, many Australasian criminologists are well aware that they and their discipline ‘wear no clothes’. I also believe that upon focused, critical self-reflection, their complicity in the subjugation of Indigenous people, is, or will be exposed, which is probably why most of them show an aversion to researching it, acknowledging it, or  attempt to understand it.

This now brings me to the last part of my presentation; the exposure of the rapacious, prejudiced and subjugating tendencies of Australasian criminology; a discipline, as I pointed out earlier, that is very  much in the service of the Settler-Colonial state.

The Three Pillars of Exception and Exclusion in Australasian Criminology

What is now apparent is the capacity of contemporary criminology, in partnership with the Settler-Colonial state to blatantly sideline and silence Indigenous peoples. It is most especially skilled in silencing our experiences of contemporary crime control, and pushing genocidal crime control policies, legislation and interventions upon us, despite overwhelming evidence of their failure, by any measure, to reduce recidivism, or make our communities safer.

I contend that this places us in a state of exception to mainstream criminology and given, their parasitic relationship, to the Settler-Colonial states of New Zealand and Australia. Tactics of active exclusion can be purposely formed, as in having a clearly stated intention to exclude, such as the Northern Territory Emergency Response that was introduced by the Howard government in 2007. Or, it can be subtle, with intentions hidden among the meaningless rhetoric employed by the professional academic concerned to protect their social justice credentials. Exceptional measures of exclusion permeate the discipline of criminology’s relationship with Indigenous peoples; and why would they not, given the historical development of the discipline and its relationship with the state.

My argument that we are in a ‘state of exception’ to Settler-Colonial criminology comes from Agamben’s theory of the same, a process whereby the modern democratic state exclude certain groups from the space within which the advantages of citizenship, including human rights, are present. Furthermore, those in the state of exception, thus excluded, receive the legitimate forms of violence available to the modern democratic state – including I would argue, the violence that is the criminal justice system.

This violence manifests in many forms: social, political, economic and (not always but sometimes) geographic exclusions, denial of citizenship rights, refusal to engage with people in order to meaningfully include their perspectives and experience in the development of policy and initiatives, the homogenisation and stereotyping of individuals, and at times entire communities. Other manifestations include the development of policies for them as a separate group based on Eurocentric formulations, wielded upon the bodies of Indigenous peoples by agents of the sovereign state.

Hold a mirror up to academic, Australasian criminology and you will see many, if not all of these strategies deployed by many of its practitioners against Indigenous peoples. It is my contention that criminology, as a Colonial Project in support of the Settler-Colonial state, has throughout its history created Indigenous peoples as a problem population, a criminalised population, in need of significant surveillance and control. We are, for all intent and purposes, placed in a state of exception, ear-marked for exclusion, and by that I mean excluded from meaningful input into the policy context by both the policy industry and the criminologists that further their careers by sucking on the funding teat of the state. 

Many of us excluded from the mainstream, and from the development of criminological knowledge because of the colours we choose to wear, because we belong to hard-to-reach communities (as Harry Tam refers to them, or 'gangs' in the policy and criminological lexicon), communities that many Australasian criminologists talk about, without ever having engaged with them. We are also excluded by dent of our significant involvement in the criminal justice system, and other social suppression processes such as child care and protection; governmental processes that criminologist played significant roles in developing.  

Our state of exception does not manifest through the amount of attention we receive from the either criminology or the institutions of crime control, but because of the nature and form of the surveillance and the absence of meaningful, respectful and empowering engagement. Because of our ‘state of exception’ the same rules that govern respectful dialogue and engagement with say the white middle class, are not extended to us - hardly surprising given that the vast majority of Australasian criminologists are white and middle class. We are exceptional in that crime control practitioners and white privileged criminologists do not see the need to conduct themselves ethically and respectfully towards us, as they would their own. And yet while they claim to specialise in Indigenous justice, few bother to even try to develop policies and interventions that support Indigenous self-determination. 

This now brings me to a discussion of the three pillars of exception and exclusion within Australasian criminology:

The First Pillar: The Lack of Respect and Regard for Indigenous Ways of Being

Many of the disciplines’ practitioners work tirelessly to silence the Indigenous experience, and the Indigenous critique, both of the discipline, and of the partner to which it has a parasitic relationship, the criminal justice system. I will go further and argue that the silencing of the Indigenous voice is a prerequisite for gaining entry into the policy and legislative functions of neo-liberal government. If you want a seat at the table and for your research to be accepted as valid, the experiences of the subjugated, those who are critical of government performance most especially, or who have or are resisting state hegemony, must either be expunged, or at the very least modulated to the point that the lived experience of bias, racism and subjugation is rendered mute. Replaced instead with facile, meaningless research summaries drawn from glorified, state-sanctioned customer satisfaction surveys.

If we had more time we could fill a whole plenary session with a discussion of the methods criminologists employs to ‘know us’, and what they consider to be valid forms of knowledge construction and dissemination. In the Indigenous context, all too often criminologists conduct research on Indigenous issues while proselytising from afar, utilising, for example, highly structured surveys, statistical modelling, and such like, whilst rarely (sometimes never) descending into the Indigenous space to engage with us face-to-face.

The Second Pillar: The Banality of Academic Criminological Racism and Bias

In a thought-provoking piece on the support her discipline gave to the colonial context, Wendy James referred to anthropologists as ‘reluctant imperialists’, meaning that their support for the colonising enterprise was largely unplanned or unintentional. Arguably, in seeking to ‘do good’ by Indigenous peoples, anthropologists inadvertently provided empirical support to the colonial enterprise of dispossession.  

I am reluctant to offer many criminologists the same benefit of the doubt: for example, what are we to make of the continued control-freak tendencies of Australasian criminology, especially its more authoritarian adaptations? Far too often the criminological focus remains on the individual native; an individual divorced from their social, historical and structural context, as is often the case in the work of adherents who dismiss the validity of Indigenous forms of knowledge. For an example of this bias, let us contemplate for a moment how it came to be that Don Weatherburn, in a book on Aboriginal imprisonment published in 2014, felt empowered enough to argue that all we needed to know about crime, we could receive from Western science, and by inference that Indigenous ‘knowledge’ has little to offer for an understanding of social harm.  

This type of action cannot, should not be easily dismissed as 'accidental', unintentional incidents of cultural imperialism ala James’ defence of anthropology. And Weatherburn’s attitude is one that is commonly held by white privileged, Australasian criminologists. It is in my experience common place; it is insidious, and it is a reflection of the casual nature of the cultural imperialism that exists in the criminological academy in both jurisdictions.

The Third Pillar: The Criminalisation of Indigenous Women, Men and Culture

One often repeated claim is that the criminological attention has moved too far from individual ‘pathology’, to the crime control institutions of the Settler-Colonial state, and the effects of colonial and neo-colonial policy. As a result, this shift in analysis has resulted in ineffective policies and interventions for reducing Indigenous over-representation. The recommended solution should  come as no surprise: we must return the criminological gaze firmly back to the much neglected Aboriginal, pathological individual, dysfunctional family unit, and for the likes of Don Weatherburn in Australia, and here in the New Zealand context, that well-researched expert on the Maori condition, Greg Newbold, firmly back to the criminalising cultures of the Aboriginal peoples and Maori people. Similarly, Danette Marie, in her commentary on the New Zealand situation published in a special edition of the Australian New Zealand Journal of Criminology in 2010, blames the inability of the justice system to solve the ‘Indigenous problem,’ on ‘critical liberals’ like myself, whose efforts have apparently ‘not led to more effective measures of crime control within Indigenous communities or to sustained reductions in the rate of criminalisation and incarceration’. 

Now, one would suppose from this description of Indigenous experiences of Australasian crime control that suddenly prisons were empty and police no longer patrolled Indigenous communities incessantly. You could easily form the impression that Aboriginal/Maori offenders are diverted into adjudication processes dominated by Indigenous peoples, that they receive predominantly non-custodial forms of punishment when sentenced, and if they receive such a sentence, end up serving their sentence in a ‘Indigenous cultural unit’ or in a half-way house. And of course, upon release return to communities that have benefited from the extensive infrastructural, social and economic investment by government. Of course, this is not the situation at all. Yes, unquestionably the actions of the ‘legal-welfare establishment’ has led to the introduction of a range of diversionary policies and strategies, and the introduction of restorative-centred justice processes, Aboriginal Liaison Officers, Iwi Liaison Officers, prison-based cultural units like the Maori Focus Units in New Zealand, and so forth. Yet, despite all of this activity, the impression given by Marie and Weatherburn of the ‘failure’ of liberal policy discourse and the critical focus on structure and institutions is a gross exaggeration. At no time during the period in which Indigenous over-representation has been a significant issue for the Policy Industry (around the early 1980s in both Australia and New Zealand), has the liberal perspective dominated crime control policy in either jurisdiction. Furthermore, if we accept the alternative argument, that in fact the vast majority of crime control spend in Australia and New Zealand since 1980 has been on imported crime control policies and interventions, and not on Indigenous-inspired ones, then where is the evidence that the western, scientific response to the Indigenous problem has significantly reduced Indigenous over-representation, or made us better, or safer?