2 October 2020
The Aboriginal Legal Service (NSW/ACT) Limited (‘ALS’) has today welcomed a commitment by the ACT Greens to set an ambitious target to end the disproportionate imprisonment of Aboriginal people within 10 years, and called on other parties to follow suit.
“Aboriginal people are strong, smart and resilient. Yet everyday our people are forced into the quicksand of the criminal legal system at vastly disproportionate rates due to discriminatory laws, targeted policing and systemic failures.
Aboriginal people deserve a decisive and genuine commitment from all parties to urgently address the utterly shameful treatment of our communities in the criminal legal system.”
“For a long time, we have been calling on all Governments to set ambitious justice targets aimed at ending the imprisonment of Aboriginal people, and we welcome the ACT Greens commitment today. It is critical that all parties shift away from punitive approaches, and prioritise justice reinvestment strategies and community-led approaches” said ALS Chairperson Mark Davies.
The ACT has long been viewed as being a human rights jurisdiction, yet the jurisdiction continues to perform poorly in justice outcomes. For instance, the ACT has a very high rate of re-imprisonment, with ABS data showing that 75% of all people in prison had been imprisoned previously. For Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people the reimprisonment rate is 90%, and Aboriginal kids are locked up in youth prisons at 8 times the rate of their non-Indigenous peers.
The ALS calls on all parties to move beyond the status quo and set ambitious goals to improve justice outcomes for Aboriginal people. These goals must be matched with the requisite investment in community-led approaches and recognise the critical and unique role that Aboriginal community controlled organisations play in providing cultural safe services and supports to Aboriginal people.
“Aboriginal community controlled organisations are best placed to respond to the particular needs of Aboriginal people and recognise the crucial role that connection with Aboriginal culture plays in healing. It is vital there is an increased investment in community-designed and community-led diversionary programs which address the underlying reasons our communities come into contact with the criminal legal system at disproportionate rates.”
“For instance, the ALS’ Ngurrambai bail support program, funded by the ACT Government, is a culturally safe service designed to reduce the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people being held in ACT prisons unsentenced. Our bail support team assists Aboriginal people with meeting bail conditions, assistance with bail applications and creating care plans that helps individuals to access appropriate supports and programs during their bail period.”
“We thank the ACT Government for their ongoing funding support for the Ngurrambai bail support program. Continued investment in programs such as this is critical in ensuring that our people supported our people to thrive in community and culture” said Mr Davies.
ALS Media Contact: [email protected] / 0427 346 017