A 12-year-old Australian boy has become the youngest person to speak at the United Nations*, demanding Australia stop putting children as young as 10 in jail.
Dujuan Hoosan, from Arrernte and Garrwa country in Central Australia, can speak three languages, is a traditional healer and is the star of a documentary film called In My Blood It Runs.
Yet he felt like a failure in school, got bad marks and at the age of 10, was nearly sent to jail.
He is asking people in positions of power to learn from his own story, which he told to the UN Human Rights Council* (UNHRC) in Geneva, Switzerland.
“There are some things I want to see changed. I want my school to be run by Aboriginal people. I want adults to stop putting 10-year-old kids in jail,” he said.
“I want, in my future, to be able to learn strong culture and language. I hope you can make things better for us.”
The documentary, filmed when Dujuan was 10, runs through his struggles to properly engage with Australia’s education system and touches on him almost ending up at Darwin’s Don Dale youth justice centre.
In addition to listening to Dujuan’s speech, the UNHRC watched the documentary before questioning representatives from the Australian Attorney-General’s* Department about Australia’s efforts to improve children’s rights over the past five years.
Close to 100 per cent of all young people detained* in the Northern Territory are Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander kids.
At 10, Dujuan had started skipping school and quickly found himself in trouble with the police.
After a disagreement with police, he almost ended up incarcerated* — but his family stepped in.
In all Australian states and territories, 10 years is the uniform age of criminal responsibility.
The Australian Medical Association, the Law Council of Australia, the Human Rights Law Centre and Amnesty International* have been calling on Australian governments to raise the age of criminal responsibility from 10 to 14 to bring Australia into line with international law.
The Northern Territory child protection and detention royal commission* in 2017 recommended that age be lifted to 12 years but the NT Government is yet to do so despite accepting the final report recommendations.
The In My Blood It Runs documentary will be in cinemas across Australia from February 2020.
VIDEO: Dujuan speaking to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland on September 11.
Dujuan Hoosan addresses Human Rights Council
This is an edited version of Dujuan’s speech.
DUJUAN HOOSAN’S SPEECH
Werte. That means “hello” in my first language, Arrernte.
My name is Dujuan, I am 12 years old. I am from Arrernte and Garrwa Country. I came here to speak with you because our government is not listening. Adults never listen to kids — especially kids like me. But we have important things to say.
I grew up at Sandy Bore outstation and at Hidden Valley Town Camp in Alice Springs. Now I live in Borroloola.
Something special about me is that I am an Angangkere, which means I am a traditional healer. It is my job to look after my family with my healing powers.
I am the star in a new documentary, In My Blood It Runs.
It was filmed when I was 10 years old. It shows what it feels like to be an Aboriginal kid in Australia and how we are treated every day.
Many things happen to me in this film.
In school, they told me Captain Cook was a hero and discovered Australia. It made me confused. It’s not true because before cars, buildings and houses there were just Aboriginal people.
I want Australia to tell the truth that Aboriginal people were the first people who had the land.
My school report cards said that I was a failure.
Every mark was in the worst box.
I thought “is there something wrong with me?”.
I felt like a problem.
The film shows me working to learn Arrernte and about being an Angangkere.
I say, “If you go out bush each week you learn how to control your anger and control your life.”
I feel strong when I am learning my culture from my Elders and my land.
This is who I am and they don’t see me at school.
I think schools should be run by Aboriginal people.
Let our families choose what is best for us.
Let us speak our languages in school.
I think this would have helped me from getting in trouble.
The film shows Aboriginal kids tortured in juvenile detention. I know lots of kids that have been locked up. Police is cruel to kids like me. They treat us like they treat their enemies. I am cheeky, but no kid should be in jail.
I want adults to stop being cruel to 10-year-old kids in jail.
Welfare also needs to be changed. My great-grandmother was taken from her family in the stolen generation. My other great-grandmother was hidden away. That story runs through my blood pipes all the way up to my brain.
But I was lucky because of my family. They know I am smart. They love me.
They found a way to keep me safe. I am alright now, but lots of kids aren’t so lucky.
I think they should stop taking Aboriginal kids away from their parents — that’s wrong.
What I want is a normal life of just being me. I want to be allowed to be an Aboriginal person, living on my land with my family and having a good life.
My film is for all Aboriginal kids. It is about our dreams, our hopes and our rights.
I hope you think of me when you are telling the Australian government how to treat us better.
Thank you for listening to my story.
Baddiwa — that’s goodbye in my other language, Garrwa.
- United Nations: UN for short, international group of governments working together to maintain peace
- UN Human Rights Council: UNHRC for short, part of the United Nations that works to promote and protect human rights
- Attorney-General: main adviser on law to the government
- detained: jailed; keep someone from leaving
- incarcerated: jailed
- Amnesty International: UK non-government organisation focusing on human rights
- royal commission: major formal public inquiry into an issue
- What was the main message Dujuan wanted to communicate?
- Where is Dujuan from and where did he travel to for his speech?
- What percentage of children detained in the Northern Territory are Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander kids?
- How do you say “hello” in Dujuan’s first language, Arrernte? How do you say “goodbye” in Dujuan’s other language, Garrwa?
- What is an Angangkere?
LISTEN TO THIS STORY
1. Dujuan’s wishes
Carefully read through the transcript of Dujuan’s speech. Create a dot point list of the main ideas he makes in his speech — what are the changes he is wishing for?
(Hint: your finished dot point list will be similar to the plan you might write in the early stages of writing an exposition.)
Time: allow 20 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English; Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Histories and Cultures
What would you say if you had the opportunity to address the UN Human Rights Council? Perhaps you would back up Dujuan’s speech from an additional perspective or perhaps you would choose to talk about some other issue altogether. Have a think about what is important to you and the changes you would like to see in the world, then write your own speech.
Time: allow 20 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English; HASS
A good way to find a syllable is to clap as you speak.
Search through the text. Make a list of all the adjectives you can find. Classify them into the number of syllables each word has.
For example: 2 syllables, 3 syllables, 4 syllables, 5 or more syllables.
Longer doesn’t always mean better.
HAVE YOUR SAY: What age do you think it is okay for someone to be sent to jail if they break the law?
No one-word answers. Use full sentences to explain your thinking. No comments will be published until approved by editors.