Proud Gunai kurnai man Darcy McGauley-Bartlett recently was named 2023 Young Australian of the Year (Victoria). Darcy is passionate about supporting his community and has overcome significant challenges in his youth to emerge as a role model and advocate for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
In his previous role as an Aboriginal Community Liaison Officer for Victoria Police, Darcy was instrumental in changing policy to ensure fewer Indigenous people entered the justice system and didn’t stay there if they did. Darcy implemented Victoria's first Aboriginal Youth Cautioning Program to ensure all young Indigenous people are eligible for a caution when coming into contact with the justice system for the first time.
Now working within Justice Health for Corrections Victoria, he has helped establish the State’s first Aboriginal Custodial Health team to improve health outcomes for Indigenous prisoners. Darcy was pivotal in supporting health care for Aboriginal prisoners throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, including working to increase uptake of the COVID-19 vaccine. In his acceptance speech, Darcy said he was motivated to make change after seeing some of his family members’ experiences with the justice system. "Seeing the failures, the system had given my family, this was time to make change and really start early intervention and prevention," Darcy said. "There's not too many advocates who really want to make change, who genuinely care. I luckily work with so many genuine Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and non-Aboriginal people who want to make change for our people in custody."
He also spoke about the importance of self-determination for Aboriginal people. "For me, one thing that's really important is everything is self-determined. Our community have a voice. We now have a say. So in the work we're doing, my community, our prisoners, are telling us what they need for rehabilitation and integration and we're making it happen," Darcy said. "The take home for me is we are past acknowledgments and good intentions, it's time to stand up, get up and really make change for our community." Darcy will now join recipients from the other states and territories for the national awards to be announced on 25 January 2023. You can read more about Darcy and the other Victoria 2023 Australian of the Year recipients on the Australian of the Year website (External link)