COMMUNITIES such as Bendigo have an important role to play in engaging with justice issues, a human rights advocate told yesterday's Justice Bites forum.
Annie Nash, executive officer of Flat Out, an organisation who do a lot of work in Melbourne with women who are criminalised, imprisoned or recently released from prison, spoke about the need for human rights advocates to think outside the box on law and order issues, which she framed as essentially community issues.
"We need to think laterally about solutions to community problems that don’t involve police and prisons as a primary response," she said.
"Family violence is on most people’s radar right now, or should be, along with all other forms of violence. But if our primary response is police and prisons, will we solve the problem of violence in our communities? I don’t think so."
She said regional communities' lack of proximity to resources could often present additional challenges.
"We must not rely on underfunded or poorly directed service systems to do the work of caring and being responsible communities," she said.
"You know this well, as people living in a rural community... in any campaign in a rural community it begins in your backyard, you can never be sure the resources you need will make their way out of the capitals and into your communities.
"We all have the right to live violence free lives; policing and prisons are inherently expensive... they are often violent institutions and we cannot and must not rely on violence to fix violence."
Advocates in the Bendigo region were well placed to show leadership, she said.
"What strikes me with the Bendigo and wider region is the commitment to social and economic justice issues," she said.
"If there’s a community in Victoria that can show leadership on facing the challenges of being a human rights advocate in police and prison reform, it's this one."