No one should be judged by their worst moment

I have long believed that no one should be judged on their worst moment – and criminal law systems around the world still have a long way to go when it comes to providing a fair justice system that offers a humane path. towards redemption.

I had the pleasure of meeting Keenan Mundine at a Virgin Unite and Igniting Change gathering. My close friend Jane Tewson, founder and director of Igniting Change, told me what an amazing person Keenan was. But it wasn’t until seeing him share his story and his hopes for First Nations people in Australia that I understood how special his work is.

Poppy Lynch

A proud First Nations man, Keenan had an incredibly difficult start to life. After tragically losing his parents (to drugs and suicide) at a young age, he was separated from his siblings and institutionalized. Without support or guidance, Keenan slipped into drug addiction, made a series of poor decisions and found himself trapped in the revolving door of the criminal justice system.

One of the most troubling aspects of Keenan’s story is that, for First Nations people in Australia, it’s not uncommon. Indigenous people currently make up about 32% of the prison population, although they make up about 3% of the total population. Youth incarceration rates are also alarming – Indigenous children are imprisoned 24 times more than non-Indigenous children and make up 50% of the juvenile prison population.

When Keenan was released from prison, he worked incredibly hard to rebuild his life. But with no obvious path to employment and a criminal record hanging over her head, it wasn’t easy.

Keenan Mundine speaking at a Virgin Unite Necker rally

Poppy Lynch

And yet he stood before us, as deputy CEO and co-founder of Deadly Connections – an Indigenous community-led organization that works to break cycles of systemic racism, disadvantage and trauma to combat involvement. and the overrepresentation of First Nations people, families and communities in the child welfare and justice systems.

Keenan’s story is one of hope and he spoke passionately about the support he received from Jane and the Igniting Change team – attributing Deadly Connections and how it worked to the support he personally felt from this. intervention. I encourage you to learn more about Deadly Connections and how they provide services to Indigenous peoples, families, and communities who have been impacted by grossly unjust systems.

Keenan Mundine hugs at Virgin Unite Necker rally

Poppy Lynch

The unacceptable incarceration rates of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people also deserve our attention. I am proud that Virgin Unite continues to support the incredible organization Human Rights Law Center (HRLC), which has fought for years to protect and promote human rights in Australia. The HRLC team is inspiring wherever you are in the world, from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander human rights to environmental and climate justice.

Finally, I recently joined the JUSTICE podcast with prison philanthropist Edwina Grosvenor. We discussed Fair Checks for criminal records and the new Fair Checks campaign, which calls for a fresh start for the UK’s outdated criminal records system.

I strongly believe in the importance of providing employment opportunities for people with criminal records and I encourage all businesses that can to support the campaign.

About Rhonda Lee

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