The following article was written by ACT Greens Senate candidate Dr Tjanara Goreng Goreng.
I would like to respond to the recent fearmongering of ACT Senator Zed Seselja.
Increasing the police force will not address the important social issues and needs of the ACT’s community. Instead, the attempt to reframe an issue of justice as one of fear is nothing more than a horrible form of cynical politics, one that attempts to drag our public policy debate further to the right.
Canberra’s new Chief Justice Lucy McCallum recently made a great comparison between disaster funding and justice funding. She pointed out that only three percent of disaster funding goes towards prevention, while 97% goes towards mopping up afterwards, and that we do the same thing with funding to address crime.
Here in Canberra as everywhere else in Australia, it is First Nations people who bear the brunt of excessive policing, profiling and subsequently over-incarceration. It is First Nations men and their families that suffer the brunt of a more visible police force. The ACT has the highest rate of incarceration of First Nations people per head of population, and the last thing our community needs is more police, more arrests, and a further perpetuation of the incarceration cycle.
Senator Seselja’s call for more police is a racist policy by a privileged white man who doesn’t understand what it’s like to fear the police because of the color of your skin. I’m disappointed to see some of the other candidates running for the ACT Senate take Zed’s bait and call for even further policing, rather than side with the evidence and community sector voices crying out for greater federal investment preventative justice.
Vulnerable Canberrans need elected leaders willing to lead, not promulgate fear for political purposes, or people too scared of being accused of being ‘anti police’ to
So let me explain it to anyone else who feels that more police is the best solution to the complex needs of vulnerable and marginalized communities.
People in our communities have experienced systemic injustice, intergenerational disadvantage, homelessness and poverty. Families have been broken by the criminal justice system, and the impacts of deaths in custody are felt by entire communities for decades.
By directing resources away from the court-to-prison pipeline, we can provide support for the complex needs of different people and communities.
We can stop the cycle of incarceration of recidivism by increasing mental health and social and emotional wellbeing programs, and most critically, by providing stable, affordable housing and income support that raises people out of poverty.
We know that trauma and relationship counseling, chemical dependency therapeutic rehabilitation, and individually-tailored assistance for First Nations peoples works.
Here in Canberra, the success of the ACT’s PACER (Police, Ambulance and Clinician Early Response) program since 2019 shows that it’s better for everyone if crisis responses can be tailored to different circumstances.
This is what we need more of - evidence-based solutions and investments, not fear-mongering.
I will never pander to Zed’s fear-based politics by promising more and more police for Canberra, because I know the impact this will have on vulnerable and marginalized people, particularly First Nations people.
I encourage all of my fellow Senate candidates to make the same commitment.