The voices of Indigenous youth in detention have been platformed in a new report by Victoria's Koorie Youth Council.
Aptly named 'Ngaga-dji', meaning 'hear me' in Woi Wurrung language, the publication illustrates the challenging experiences of the youth justice system.
While Victoria has one of the lowest Indigenous incarceration rates in the country, Indigenous children are still over-represented and their stories paint a picture of the challenges they face.
'In the lock up I didn’t feel alive, just like I was surviving. I didn’t sleep.' - Murrenda
Koorie Youth Council Executive Director Indi Clarke launched the report this week, saying he'll never forget every young person and child they spoke to.
"In total I did every single one of the workshops or yarning circles with these young people and their stories will forever hold a place in my heart," he said.
'My head trapped in that hate I heard and played it over and over and over. It swam through my mind until I believed it, accepted the stigma and stereotypes the world told me about my people.' - Murrenda
As well as the stories, the report offers several solutions including: giving children services that work; keeping children safe and strong in their culture, families and communities; community-designed and led youth support systems; and creating just and equitable systems.
The guiding principals to achieve these solutions are self determination, youth participation, culture, family, Elders and community.
One story featured, that of 'Binak', outlines how Koori Courts can help young people caught up in the justice system.
'I walked into Koori Court ready to be locked up. I looked at the lawyer I’d met five minutes before, waiting to hear the same old stuff, but the Elders asked me to talk up. They listened to everything about home, school, Nan, resi, the cops, the crash. It was the first time I told my story where people heard me. They asked me what I needed and what my family needed. I felt a spark of trust light up again.'
The report has been endorsed by the Aboriginal Justice Caucus's Marion Hansen, as well as the Principal Commissioner for Children and Young People Liana Buchanan, and the Commissioner for Aboriginal Children and Young People Justin Mohamed.
"For anyone who has worked with children or young people, the report shouldn't be too much of a surprise," Mr Mohamed said.
"Some of it is quite challenging and should be challenging because that what these reports are out there to do.
"I think that some of these recommendations. and the strength through the report shows the hope of some of the young people, no matter what they're facing on a day to day basis."
Jewish and Queer activist Jacob Komesaroff illustrated the unique report, while proud Mparntwe and Arrernte man Cassidy Wanganeen Liddle animated the stories.