Brain injury is often called the ‘hidden’ disability due to its lack of physical evidence of injury, making it difficult to screen for and assess in Australian prisoners. Yet, having a brain injury in the criminal justice system makes an instrumental difference on the way prisoners are assessed and treated in and out of a prison.
On Tuesday 20 September, Synapse CEO Jennifer Cullen provided evidence before the Disability Royal Commission around the conditions of First Nation’s prisoners with a disability, with a focus on peoples with either a diagnosed or suspected brain injury and cognitive impairment in detention.
Ms Cullen provided evidence to the commission that First Nations peoples experience increased risk of brain injury and associated cognitive impairments through high exposure to risk factors such as head trauma, chronic illness, and foetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD).
Synapse has a strong organisational knowledge and understanding of the multi-layered issues associated with intergenerational trauma which includes disability in the criminal justice system that affect First Nations peoples.
“As a co-signer of the UN’s Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, Australia has an obligation to uphold the rights and dignity of all Australians with a disability, hidden or otherwise. Australia’s own disability strategy builds on this to ensure the safety, rights, and justice of individuals living with brain injury are upheld,” said Ms Cullen.
Synapse has identified systemic and human rights issues in the treatment of First Nations peoples for a brain injury. Collaborating with First Nations communities and services, Synapse developed the Guddi Way Screen, which is a culturally safe process to screen for cognitive impairment and functional impacts as well as provide support strategies and recommendations for referral.
Ms Cullen stated, “we hope the commission takes onboard that there are already tools and processes which have been developed to ensure these basic human rights. Synapse has seen the Guddi Way Screen working in the community and recommends it as a tool to be used within the criminal justice system to assist First Nations peoples moving forward.”
“Synapse has found the Guddi Way Screen is seeing great success across the criminal justice system, including a decrease in instances of reoffending once a person has undergone the screening and can be given the tools to manage living with a brain injury and cognitive function,” Ms Cullen said.
The Guddi Way Screen was developed to be used in multiple contexts including Indigenous sentencing courts, homelessness services, and First Nations community services in metro, regional, and remote settings across Australia.
National Marketing and Communications Manager
0415 372 327