29 April 2019
The New South Wales Council for Civil Liberties (CCL) has welcomed a pledge by the Australian Labor Party to invest $107 million to address the disproportionate incarceration rates of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
The announcement by Labor’s shadow Indigenous Affairs spokesperson Pat Dodson and shadow Attorney General Mark Dreyfus includes $44 million in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander legal Services, $21.5 million for family violence prevention legal services, $21.75 million for justice reinvestment programs in NSW, Western Australia, Queensland, and the Northern Territory. Labor has also committed to adopting justice targets as part of the Closing the Gap framework.
NSWCCL President Pauline Wright said “This is a welcome and overdue response to the national scandal of our imprisonment rates of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Over a year ago, the Australian Law Reform Commission published yet another report, Pathways to Justice, on Australia’s disproportionate rate of imprisonment of Indigenous people, and proposed concrete solutions for resolving a crisis that has been undeniable since the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody in 1991.”
“And things have only got worse since the Royal Commission. From 2006 to 2016 alone, the incarceration rate increased 41 percent. Indigenous people in Australia are 12.5 times more likely to be imprisoned than non-Indigenous people. It is disappointing that the response from the Coalition government to the ALRC’s 500 page report was two lines, saying they would ‘consider the report’s relevant recommendations and respond in due course’. Instead, they announced in the Budget that specific funding for legal services for Indigenous Australians would be abolished from July 2020, despite an independent review recommending that the current funding arrangements be retained,” said Wright.
“Recommendation 4-2 calls for governments to support justice reinvestment trials. Today’s pledge by the ALP is a hopeful sign that the Labor Party will take meaningful action to address the disproportionate imprisonment rates of Indigenous people in Australia. We call on the ALP to commit to implementing the recommendations of the Pathways to Justice report,” said Wright.
“The key to the advancement of our First Nations peoples will be ensuring they have a voice so that they may play a significant role in any reforms affecting them. CCL calls upon both Labor and the Coalition to enshrine the Uluru Statement from the Heart in the Constitution so that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are guaranteed a voice in determining the policy and legal reform in matters affecting them for the long term.”
Contacts in relation to this statement.
0418 292 656