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Aboriginal Australian Indigenous rights advocate, Keenan Mundine (b.  circa 1987) was in kinship care and juvenile detention as a child.

Keenan Mundine was born and raised on Gadigal Land, in Redfern, an inner city suburb of Sydney. He was the youngest of three boys.

By the time Keenan Mundine was seven years old, he was an orphan. Keenan and his brothers were separated and taken in by relatives, and Keenan went to live in La Perouse, a suburb 14 km south-east of Sydney.

When he was fourteen, Keenan left home to find his brothers. He found one of his brothers was “already heavily involved in the criminal justice system” and addicted to drugs (TedxSydney).

Left to fend for himself, Keenan also got caught up in the criminal justice system through stealing televisions and computers; he was schooled in the ‘art’ by older boys and men.

By the age of fifteen, I was experimenting with drugs and alcohol myself and by the age of sixteen I had a fully blown heroin habit. I was injecting heroin daily and trying anyway possible to get some peace from the pain that I was feeling (TedxSydney).

By the time he was eighteen, Keenan was in the adult prison system and feeling alone and isolated, without support.

At twenty-four, Keenan decided to leave behind his past. Because he had a criminal record, he found it difficult to get paid work but he volunteered, and reconnected with family and culture.

Keenan Mundine is now married with two sons and is the co-founder and ambassador for Deadly Connections, an Aboriginal organisation set up to break cycles of disadvantage.

We target the child protection and justice system and we are taking an innovative and creative new approach to decolonising the criminal justice system and trying to wrap culturally appropriate services, supports and interventions our people, families, and communities to keep them safer, stronger and connected, and give them opportunities to overcome poverty and disadvantage (TedxSydney).

Mundine presented at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland in July 2018, exhorting the Australian government to raise the criminal age of responsibility from ten to fourteen years.

I have spent more than half of my life behind bars, in part a product of institutionalised racism and discrimination. I can still smell the prison cell I was locked in as a child. A tiny, cold cell. My first night in that cell was the loneliest of my life. Mr President, right now, children as young as ten are being locked away in prison cells across Australia. This year alone, around 600 children under the age of fourteen will be taken from their families and their communities and locked up. Most of these children are Indigenous – like me. This council and many UN bodies have urged Australian governments to raise the age of criminal responsibility … (Mundine, UN speech, 2018)

One of Keenan Mundine’s ‘heroes of history’ is Nelson Mandela, also a Care Experienced Person.


Burgess, Kerryn. “From Redfern to the United Nationals: Keenan Mundine on Indigenous leadership.”

“Keenan’s courage.” ABC Conversations with Richard Fidler, Sarah Kanowski, 2021.

“Keenan Mundine calls out Turnbull Government for failing Indigenous children.” Youtube, posted by the Human Rights Law Centre, 4 July 2018.

“First Nations led solutions for the justice system.” TedX Sydney. 6 November 2020.

Image available here.