by Mark Savic
Mark is a Criminal Lawyer practicing in the Northern Rivers of NSW. The area takes in Coffs Harbour, Woolgoolga, Grafton and Maclean. Mark has many years of experience representing groups at risk including, Aboriginal Australians, unemployed people, people who are socially and economically marginalised, women where under represented, newly arrived refugees and many others.
What is a “group at risk?” Are you in a “group at risk?”
A group at risk is a group of people who do not enjoy all the advantages that most of us enjoy. It is also a group who might be a bit more vulnerable because of who they are.
An example could be women who work in a workplace where mostly men work. Let’s say there was an 18-year-old girl who was working in an apprenticeship doing plumbing and she was the only female in the workplace or classroom. She might be at risk of being exposed to special treatment which might make her feel uncomfortable. This in turn might lead to her not wanting to go to class or to work. This would be very unfair.
Another example might be someone who is very poor and who has very little education. Because of this they might find it hard to get a job.
Sometimes groups at risk experience a much higher engagement with the Criminal Law system compared to other groups in our community.
Here in the Northern Rivers we have a large Aboriginal population. Because of disadvantages created by historical marginalisation some of these people are in a group at risk. There can be more domestic violence, drug offences, assaults and stealing in and around this group. Sometimes it is because this group has very little access to resources. Most of the crime in this group is a result of people just wanting to live. A common crime is the use of another person’s EFTPOS card to buy some food for the kids and to put some fuel in the car. Not a very serious crime but one that will land you in court and maybe in jail if you have done it a few times.
If you are in a group at risk understand that you have all of the rights of other people in our community and sometimes you can be given special consideration.