Yuwaya Ngarra-li: a community-led partnership between the Dharriwaa Elders Group and UNSW that is responding to the criminalisation of Aboriginal peoples

Stream: Indigenous research
Date: Monday, 9 September 2019
Time: 11.30 am – 12.30 pm


Aboriginal people with cognitive disability, mental health and addiction issues often end up in the criminal justice system in the absence of early intervention and appropriate community-based services and support. There are particular challenges facing Aboriginal people in remote areas, where police are often the only ‘service’ funded 24 hours a day. This presentation will discuss a partnership between the Walgett Dharriwaa Elders Group (DEG) and UNSW that has developed after collaborating on a research project from 2011-2015 that investigated how the criminal justice system has become the default way the state ‘manages’ many Aboriginal people with disability from disadvantaged backgrounds. At the end of the project, the DEG invited UNSW to continue to work with them around their vision for systemic change in Walgett, a remote town in north-west NSW. The Yuwaya Ngarra-li partnership that has emerged is an innovative collaboration between an Aboriginal community-controlled organisation and a university that is supporting a community-led response to the criminalisation of Aboriginal peoples that is holistic, culturally connected, rights-based and strengths-focused. The purpose of Yuwaya Ngarra-li is for the Dharriwaa Elders Group and UNSW to work in partnership to improve the wellbeing, social, built and physical environment and life pathways of Aboriginal people in Walgett through collaborating on evidence-based initiatives, research and capacity building, and to evaluate this as a model of ‘CommUNIty-Led Development’. This presentation will discuss our approach and findings to date, including recent work around youth justice, solar energy, water and food security in Walgett.


Ruth McCausland (Presenter), UNSW
Dr Ruth McCausland is Senior Research Fellow and Director of Evaluation for the Yuwaya Ngarra-li partnership between UNSW and the Dharriwaa Elders Group, and Adjunct Senior Research Fellow in the School of Social Sciences. Her research focuses on the criminalisation of young people, women, people with disabilities and Aboriginal peoples, as well as evaluation and community-led alternatives to incarceration. Ruth's PhD was on evaluation and the diversion of Aboriginal women from prison in NSW, and she also has a Masters in International Social Development. Ruth previously worked at Jumbunna, UTS, the Australian Human Rights Commission and NSW Anti-Discrimination Board.

Peta MacGillivray (Presenter), UNSW
Peta MacGillivray is a proud Kalkadoon and South Sea Islander woman and the Yuwaya Ngarra-li Project Manager based at UNSW. Peta is a lawyer, and has previously worked as a researcher on a range of criminology, legal services and community-development projects in Sydney and across Australia. Peta’s area of legal practice specialisation is the legal needs of children and young people, particularly those experiencing social and economic disadvantage. Peta is passionate about youth justice and children and young people’s participation in community development work. Peta is currently studying her Masters in Law (Criminology and Criminal Justice).