Australian Institute of Criminology

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Young indigenous males, custody and the rites of passage

Trends & issues in crime and criminal justice no. 204

Emma Ogilvie and Allan Van Zyl
ISBN 0 642 24229 1 ISSN 0817-8542
Canberra: Australian Institute of Criminology, April 2001


This paper examines the concept of incarceration as an alternative "rite of passage" for young Indigenous males. The study was based on a series of interviews with young Indigenous offenders in the Northern Territory. The findings suggest that the concept of incarceration as a rite of passage needs to be substantially reconfigured. While imprisonment can certainly serve as a testing ground for young Indigenous males, it does not replace traditional rites of passage in remote communities, and needs to be recognised as a phase in criminal trajectories characterised by a lack of access to basic social resources.