A chorus of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leaders, communities and organisations have called on the Federal Government to provide a formal response to the recommendations contained in the Australian Law Reform Commission’s Pathways to Justice report.
In an open letter penned to the Prime Minister and the Minister for Indigenous Affairs, 35 leading community organisations and academics working in the justice reinvestment space have lamented the Federal Government’s continued inaction on the report’s key recommendation.
“It has now been nearly six months since the ALRC report was tabled in Parliament,” the letter states. However, to date the Federal Government has made no formal response. The open letter identifies that during the last six month period, more than 5,000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men, women and children have spent time in prisons around the country, causing a significant negative impact on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families and communities around the country. The call for Federal Government action has been initiated by leading Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander, human rights and community organisations working on the ground to achieve safer and stronger communities. “Unfair justice systems are failing to build the safer, stronger communities all Australians want,” the letter states.
“We cannot let another generation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people lose their futures, their dignity, and, for some, their lives, because of inaction by Australian governments,” the letter concludes.
The Pathways to Justice report was released following detailed consultation and research led by the Australian Law Reform Commission. It contains 35 recommendations to reduce the over-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the criminal justice system and to address community safety. Specific recommendations made to the Federal Government include:
- the establishment of a national justice reinvestment body and supporting justice reinvestment trials around the country; and
- developing national criminal justice targets.
When announcing the inquiry in October 2016, then Attorney-General George Brandis QC labelled the over-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in our prisons a “national tragedy” and stated that the ALRC inquiry would be a “critical step” for breaking through the disturbing statistics.
“Every day here in Bourke we see the benefits that the Maranguka Justice Reinvestment initiative has for our community, and in particular our young people. Justice reinvestment enables us to make decisions about what we need in our community. In partnership with Just Reinvest NSW it creates collaboration, it builds our strength and confidence, causes better health and well-being outcomes, and has made all stakeholders more action and outcome focused.” said Alistair Ferguson, Executive Director of the Maranguka Justice Reinvestment Initiative.
“Our experience in Bourke through the Maranguka Justice Reinvestment initiative demonstrates that governments should be getting behind Justice Reinvestment initiatives in other communities.”
Just Reinvest Champion, Professor Tom Calma, further said, “Ever since the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody over 25 years ago, we have seen numerous inquiries and reports that identify what government needs to do to address this national tragedy. The Federal Government has the answers it needs. We are well overdue for action… We should be building communities, not prisons.”
Click here for the – Open Letter – Call for Response to Pathways to Justice report