Immigration

After UN speech, Indigenous 12-year-old takes his message of change to PM

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An Indigenous boy from the Northern Territory is taking his message on Aboriginal-led education and youth incarceration to Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

Elated after addressing the United Nations, 12-year-old Dujuan Hoosan is spearheading a push calling on Prime Minister Scott Morrison to support an Indigenous-led education model as part of a strategy to reduce Indigenous youth detention. 

"I was thinking not to get shy and try not to miss any words on the speech," he told SBS News after addressing the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva on Wednesday.

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Twelve-year-old boy urges PM to rethink Australia's education system
Twelve-year-old boy urges PM to rethink Australia's education system

Of Arrernte and Garrwa descent, Dujuan shared his story of nearly being imprisoned at the age of 10.

"I felt like a failure at school," he told the council. "I was always worried about being taken away from my family." 

He said his run-ins with the police could have ended with him jail, but the intervention that saved him was re-acquainting himself with learning about his Aboriginal culture, identity, language. 

Dujuan Hoosan has told the UN Human Rights Council that Indigenous-led education models are needed to reduce rates of Indigenous youth incarceration.
Dujuan Hoosan has told the UN Human Rights Council that Indigenous-led education models are needed to reduce rates of Indigenous youth incarceration.
Maya Newell

"I want my school to be run by Aboriginal people. I want, in my future, to be able to learn strong culture and language," he added.

"I want adults to stop putting 10-year-old kids in jail."

'They found a way to keep me safe'

He attributes his wellbeing and positive outlook to the support of his family. 

"I was lucky because my family, they know I am smart. They love me. They found a way to keep me safe," he told the council.

Speaking to SBS News, he said he was humbled by the applause in the chamber after his speech.

"People did listen when they heard my voice," he said, pausing as he recalled his family's reaction sitting in the chamber. "My grandmother told me she put in the ear plugs to listen to what I was saying."

Dujuan Hoosan and his mother.
Dujuan Hoosan and his mother.
Maya Newell

He said he was motivated to travel to Geneva to share his story on the world stage to ensure Indigenous kids can have a future that does not include prison.  

"Every day kids get taken from their families and they are not returned to them until they're [sometimes] eighty years old."

Dujuan said the threat of jail was a very real concern among Indigenous children in his community. Close to 100 per cent of the youths in jail in the Northern Territory are Indigenous Australians.

Nationally, nearly 600 children are detained in jails each year with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander kids over-represented.

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Indigenous youth detention rates affected by education, culture: lawyer
Indigenous youth detention rates affected by education, culture: lawyer

Letter to PM

Dujuan has written to Prime Minister Scott Morrison inviting him to see the documentary featuring his story, In My Blood It Runs.

He is hoping that Mr Morrison watches the film and says he would like to sit down with the Prime Minister personally to share his story. 

He has yet receive a response, but in the meantime is working with his grandmothers through the group Children's Ground to promote an Indigenous-education model.

Dujuan Hoosan says he wants to see an end to the jailing of 10-year-olds in Australia.
Dujuan Hoosan says he wants to see an end to the jailing of 10-year-olds in Australia.
Supplied

"In Australia, almost every Aboriginal kid gets taught English. And in every other country, they teach kids another language and culture - except for Australia."

Never far from his mind is the story of the Don Dale youth detention centre in the Northern Territory, that was shut down following a 2017 Royal Commission into the territory's youth justice system.

Knowing how his life could have very nearly been very different, he said stopping the imprisonment of 10-year-olds in Australia is something he is passionate about.

"I want to see the juvenile justice age change from age 10 to 14."

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Push for Indigenous-led education model
Push for Indigenous-led education model

The In My Blood It Runs documentary will be in cinemas across Australia from February 2020.

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