Incarceration rates of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples
Following public consultation on the Draft Terms of Reference, the Attorney-General delivered final Terms of Reference to the ALRC on 10 February 2017. The Terms of Reference (TOR) request that the ALRC examine the laws, legal frameworks and legal institutions, including the police, courts, legal assistance services and prisons, that may contribute to the over‑representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in our prison system.
The Attorney-General also announced the appointment of His Honour Judge Matthew Myers AM as ALRC Commissioner to lead the Indigenous Incarceration Inquiry.
Since receiving the TOR, the ALRC has established an Advisory Committee, as is the usual ALRC practice. The Advisory Committee had its first meeting in March. It will meet again before the release of the Discussion Paper in the middle of the year, and prior to completion of the final report.
In March the ALRC began an initial round of intensive consultation, travelling to Brisbane, Perth, Alice Springs, Darwin and Melbourne, interspersed with consultations in Sydney. The ALRC is planning visits to Adelaide, Hobart and Canberra, as well as to selected regional locations, after the release of the Discussion Paper at the end of June.
The Discussion Paper will present our scoping of the Inquiry, and will include proposals for reform, addressing the areas outlined in the TOR. The Discussion Paper is the key opportunity for public engagement with the Inquiry and the ALRC will at that time call for submissions for the public, which will be due to the ALRC by the end of August.
Submissions to the Elder Abuse Inquiry Discussion Paper, Elder Abuse (DP 83), closed on 27 February 2017. The ALRC received more than 200 submissions from organisations and individuals in response to DP 83, and more than 450 submissions to the Issues Paper and Discussion Paper combined. This is a very significant response and confirms stakeholder interest and engagement in the Inquiry. Public submissions are published on the ALRC website.
The final meeting of the Advisory Committee was held on 7 April, and the ALRC’s final report is due to the Attorney-General at the end of May 2017.
ALRC President, Professor Rosalind Croucher AM, recently delivered the keynote address to the ADA Conference in Queensland, Supporting Older People in Exercising and Protecting Their Rights—Insights from the ALRC’s Disability and Elder Abuse Inquiries.
Traditional Rights and Freedoms—Encroachments by Commonwealth Laws (ALRC Report 129)
On 22 March, the Government introduced into the Senate the Human Rights Legislation Amendment Bill 2017. Among other things, the Bill contains measures to reform section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act 1975. The Explanatory Memorandum notes that in its ‘Freedoms Report’ the ALRC identified that Part IIA of the RDA ‘would benefit from more thorough review in relation to freedom of speech.’ See Chapter 4 for full discussion.
Copyright and the Digital Economy (ALRC Report 122)
On 22 March 2017, the Copyright Amendment (Disability Access and other Measures) Bill was introduced into Parliament. If passed, it will enable people with disabilities to access and enjoy books and other material in formats they can use, such as braille, large print or DAISY audio. This is consistent with recommendations in ALRC Report 122, in particular Rec 16-1.
For Your Information: Australian Privacy Law and Practice (ALRC Report 108)
On 7 February 2017, Parliament passed the Privacy Amendment (Notifiable Data Breaches) Bill 2016 into law. This Bill implements the recommendations of ALRC Report 108 by requiring agencies and organisations regulated by the Privacy Act to provide notice to the Australian Information Commissioner and affected individuals of an eligible data breach (See Explanatory Memorandum).
Connection to Country: Review of the Native Title Act 1993 (Cth) (ALRC Report 126)
The Native Title Amendment (Indigenous Land Use Agreements) Bill 2017, if passed, will implement two ALRC recommendations about authorisation, enabling the native title claim group itself to determine the type of decision-making process (either traditional or agreed-upon) to be used to authorise the applicant (Recs 10-1 and 10-2).
Law reform organisations
On 26-26 March 2017, the Commonwealth Association of Law Reform Agencies held an international conference on law reform, with the theme ‘Effective Law Reform – Sharing Together Across the World”. ALRC President Professor Rosalind Croucher addressed the Conference in her presentation, ‘Law Reform Agencies and Government—Independence, survival and effective law reform?’.
The next intern intake is Semester 2, for part-time placements between 7 August and 20 October. The closing date for applications is 3 July 2017. The ALRC strongly encourages eligible Indigenous law students to apply — for the opportunity to work on the inquiry into incarceration rates of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
For the Semester 1 intake, the ALRC welcomed Cassidy O’Sullivan from the University of Sydney, Taylah Mihell from UTS, and Sharfah Mohamed from Macquarie Uni, and three Indigenous law students—Desiree Leha, Ganur Maynard and Noah Bedford—from the University of New South Wales.