The stories in Ngaga-dji are from the heart, they are about love, trauma, strength, discrimination and healing. They are about justice and equality. These children are telling their stories because they trust us to listen and take action on the Ngaga-dji solutions.


Yarning justice, gathering stories
Ngaga-dji is based on listening, valuing and acting on the voices of children in our communities. Born out of the Aboriginal Justice Agreement, Ngaga-dji tells the stories of children that society silences with incarceration and stigma.

Over six months, KYC engaged with four community sites (including rural, regional and metro) and two youth justice custodial centres to meet 42 children and young people who were currently or previously under youth justice supervision. Participants represented a range of ages, from among the youngest to the oldest children in the system. We also spoke to some over-18 participants who reflected on their time as children in youth justice. Participants had experienced a range of contact with the justice system, including:

  • police cautioning
  • police custody
  • courts (mainstream and Children’s Koori Court)
  • diversion
  • good behaviour bond
  • incarceration (youth justice custody) on remand and sentenced
  • community-based order.

Engagement took the form of group yarning circles and individual interviews. These yarns enabled participants to lead conversations to ensure their safety and confidentiality. Discussions spanned Aboriginal children’s lives in community before coming into contact with the youth justice system, their experiences in the system and return to community (where applicable). This methodology enabled a deep understanding of the children and young people’s lives, personal experiences and communities that is reflected in these stories and advocacy.

The engagement plan for this project was approved by the Department of Health and Human Services Human Research Ethics Committee, reference number: 19/16.


The following stories have been de-identified to ensure children’s privacy and safety. The process of de-identification involved creating composite accounts that reflect the real lives of many Aboriginal children. All experiences and events included in the stories are real accounts with details and names changed for confidentiality. Stories have been reviewed by a focus group of young people with lived experience of the youth justice system.


These stories contain distressing content, including family violence, sexual abuse, physical violence, mental illness, self-harm, suicide and coarse language.


The stories you will read in Ngaga-dji are the voices of Aboriginal children around Victoria. The stories they share with you are from the heart, they are about love, trauma, strength, discrimination and healing. They are about justice and equality. Children are telling their stories because we need a state where Aboriginal children can thrive in their culture and communities. These children are telling their stories because they trust us to listen and take action.

Following the stories, Ngaga-dji outlines our vision for a Victoria that enables Aboriginal children to thrive. Based on the voices of children from around the state, as well as expert knowledge, this Ngaga-dji is our hope to create better lives for Aboriginal children and their communities. We can ensure the pain expressed in these stories is not felt by another generation of our community.

For printed copies of the Ngaga-dji report, please contact


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Victoria’s only legal service for Aboriginal children shuts down, ABC News, Friday 28 September 2018. Learn more.
Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service shuts down youth service, ABC News, Friday 28 September 2018. Learn more.
Ngaga-dji (Hear Me) TV mention, The Point NITV, Friday 21 September 2018.
Report gives voice to children caught in the justice system, Koorie Mail, Wednesday 19 September 2018.
Let’s talk, radio interview with Indi Clarke, 98.9FM, Wednesday 5 September 2018. Learn more.
‘In the lockup I didn’t feel alive’: insights from stories of youth detention, NITV SBS, Friday 31 August 2018. Learn more.
How do we reduce the over-representation of Indigenous kids behind bars, The Feed, Thursday 30 August 2018. Learn more.
Aboriginal children are speaking out about their youth justice experiences, Buzzfeed, Wednesday 29 August 2018. Learn more.
‘You’re meat’: Aboriginal children open up about life in youth justice, The Age, Tuesday 28 August 2018. Learn more.
Reflections on Ngaga-dji: Listening for Change, Overland, 2018. Learn more.

For media enquiries please contact Bonnie Dukakis, Koorie Youth Council, at

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