Humans of ACSO – Karina, 20

"My experience of being indigenous is so polar opposite to my non-indigenous friends."


Being an indigenous community member, you often first come into contact with the criminal justice system through your family and peers. It’s common. One of my friends went to juvie at 13 yet he was the one who was assaulted and stabbed. He got out after two weeks, but he has a criminal record now, which will affect his whole life.  It’s hard to find a job, which increases the chances of re-offending.

Another uncle, he’s always been in and out of jail pretty much my whole life. I don’t even remember meeting him. Because he’s always in jail and it’s always been like – ‘he’s out, so he’s out? No, he was out, but he’s back in.’ You just get used to it.

I find that my experience being indigenous is so polar opposite to my non-indigenous friends. Some of them have never even stepped foot inside a police station.

I’m now in my first year at Uni studying criminology.  I’ve always wanted to go into the criminal justice field, I’ve always been interested in law enforcement. Criminology gives you a lot of pathways, whether state, federal or liaison work, working within prisons and helping people who are stuck in the criminal justice system. Joining ACSO’s LEAP program is therefore right up my alley!

I have a very deep connection to my culture and my people and it’s just heartbreaking to hear the stories. When you see young Aboriginal kids getting caught up in the wrong place, wrong time and they’re not given help. Once you’ve been in juvie, you’re more likely to end up in the prison system. You’re more likely to struggle. There’s not enough prevention and there’s just not enough resources to help young kids find the right pathways.

You need to look at the whole story. People’s childhood and the things they might have been through. There could be so many different factors. We are so quick to put people in a box and judge them instead of listening to their stories and finding out why and how they got into this situation. Everyone who has been in the criminal justice system, their story is just as important as anyone else and they need to be able to be heard.

We need more programs to help people who are re-entering the community – how to use technology, where to live, where to look for work, how to pay the bills, do a resume, where they can talk to people.  I mean you can come out after 10 years and say, ‘what the fuck is gmail?!’ It’s not impossible to get back on your feet. But you need support and know what you have to offer.