Role of Indigenous-Operated Criminal Justice Organizations in Political Activism in Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the USA

Marianne O. Nielsen, Northern Arizona University

Six criminal justice service organizations operated by Indigenous people in four countries were analyzed to determine the political roles that each organization has undertaken. Each organization has tried to influence law and policy concerning Indigenous peoples through a variety of actions such as writing policy papers, informal lobbying, presentations to govenment groups, use of the media, publication of organizational documents, and hosting "watchdog" programs that monitor the criminal justice system. These roles are classified as "big P" and "small P" political activism. The organizations practice one or the other, seldom both. The difference can be traced to a number of factors including: the formality of the organization's political mandate, the degree of public support in that country for political organizations run by Indigenous peoples, funding dependency, political styles of organizational leaders, and expectations of Indigenous stakeholders. It is concluded that colonial processes still influence the provision of justice services to Indigenous peoples in each country, and that these organizations have developed anti-colonial strategies that could be shared with each other for their mutual benefit.

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Updated 05/20/2006