MEDIA RELEASE: Change the Record welcomes commitments to addressing critical First Nations justice issues

26 April 2019

 

Change the Record has welcomed commitments from the Australian Labor Party and The Australian Greens on critical Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander justice issues. Today the Australian Labor Party announced a $107 million First Nations justice package.

“We welcome the Australian Labor Party’s commitments to justice targets, justice reinvestment, Family Violence Prevention Legal Services and to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services,” said Cheryl Axleby, co-chair of Change the Record.

“Change the Record and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities have been calling for these changes for many years, and now our voices are being heard. These commitments are practical solutions and necessary first steps toward ending the over-incarceration of our people.”

Change the Record and Justice Reinvestment Australia submitted a pre-Budget submission for a national Justice Reinvestment body and national trials earlier this year, to implement the Australian Law Reform Commission’s Pathways to Justice recommendations.

Senator Pat Dodson and Shadow Attorney General Mark Dreyfus announced $21.75 million over 4 years to further Justice Reinvestment, including the extension of the Bourke Justice Reinvestment project and three additional trial sites, as well as a national coordinating body on Justice Reinvestment, as recommended by the Australian Law Reform Commission’s Pathways to Justice Inquiry.

The Greens commited to $10 million over four years to establish an independent National Centre for Justice Reinvestment and $50 million over four years for a Justice Reinvestment Grants Program.

“We welcome this national leadership from The Greens and Australian Labor Party on Justice Reinvestment. The Bourke community has seen real results on the ground with reductions in family violence and recidivism. We know that when Justice Reinvestment is Aboriginal-led and investment is going into strengthening community rather than building prisons, it works,” said Ms Axleby.

“National justice targets on ending over-incarceration would see accountability and real change on this injustice Australia-wide. Alongside this, the Closing the Gap framework must have national family violence, disability, child protection and housing targets – the other missing pieces.”

Change the Record members today will attend a roundtable with Senator Pat Dodson and Shadow Attorney General Mark Dreyfus to discuss the details of First Nations justice package.

The Australian Labor Party’s announcement includes, over four years, $40 million for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services, retaining the Indigenous Legal Assistance Program, $4 million for their peak body NATSILS, $21.5 million to Family Violence Prevention Legal Services, and $20 million for refuges and safe houses.

“Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women are the fastest growing prison population, and most of these women are victims of violence. Our people are the most incarcerated people in the world. We welcome this strong commitment to Family Violence Prevention Legal Services and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services as critical community-controlled services needed to end these injustices,” said Ms Axleby.

In addition, The Greens announced their First Nations Youth Justice Policy, which includes many of the recommendations of Change the Record’s “Free to Be Kids: National Plan of Action”, such as avoiding detention of children on remand, making bail meaningful, ending the use of restraints, force and isolation in prison, and investing in diversion programs.

“We particularly welcome the national leadership of The Greens to raising the age of criminal responsibility to 14 years. This would have a huge impact in pulling generations of First Nations children out of the quicksand of the justice system.”

These commitments are part of broader solutions that Change the Record has called for, including for the implementation of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody, the Pathways to Justice Inquiry, the Northern Territory Royal Commission, and recommendations in the Change the Record Blueprint and reports on youth justice and women.

For media comment, contact Roxanne Moore, Principal Advisor, roxanne@changetherecord.org.au, 0409 711 061.
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