10.5 AJAs were first introduced following a summit of key Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations that were concerned about a gap in state and territory government accountability left after the requirement for state and territories to report on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander incarceration, as recommended by the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody, concluded.
10.6 At their inception, AJAs were to be developed in all states and territories (excluding the NT) in partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander groups. They were required to cover the ‘delivery, funding, and coordination of Indigenous programs and services’. AJAs were to include, among other things, targets to reduce the rate of over-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander persons in the criminal justice system and to decrease incarceration rates.
10.7 Not all jurisdictions adopted an AJA. The AJAs of states and territories are outlined in the table below.
Table 1: Aboriginal Justice Agreements in states and territories 2000–2016
ACT Government, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Agreement 2010–2013
ACT Government, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Agreement 2015–2018
Aboriginal Justice Advisory Council, NSW Aboriginal Justice Agreement
Aboriginal Justice Advisory Council, Aboriginal Justice Plan: Beyond Justice 2004–2014
The Queensland Government, The Queensland Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Justice Agreement (2000–2011)
Evaluated in 2006 Concluded in 2011
Department of Justice (Vic), The Victorian Aboriginal Justice Agreement Phase 1
Department of Justice (Vic), The Victorian Aboriginal Justice Agreement Phase 2
Evaluated in 2012
Department of Justice (Vic), The Victorian Aboriginal Justice Agreement Phase 3
Running Evaluation due 2018
Government of Western Australia, Western Australian Aboriginal Justice Agreement 2004–2009
State Aboriginal Justice Congress, State Justice Plan: Aboriginal Community Solutions for Statewide Issues (2009–2014)
(A non-government strategy developed under the AJA)
10.8 AJAs generally involve numerous state and territory government departments, including: Premier and Cabinet; Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander policy development; Justice and Attorney General; Police; Corrective Services; and Family Services.
10.9 The ACT and Victoria have current AJAs. All other states and territories either did not adopt an agreement, or the AJA has lapsed.
The ACT Partnership
10.10 The ACT AJA—called ‘the Partnership’—was developed with the ACT Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Elected Body in 2015. The Partnership includes an action plan to reduce the average number of Aboriginal and Torres Straits Islander people in prison to less than 10% of the prison population. It aims to do this by ‘improving accessibility, utilisation and effectiveness of justice-related programs and services’, including diversionary programs.
10.11 The ‘action plan’ outlines key initiatives, measures and delegates for each program. In the area of criminal justice, this includes: developing culturally appropriate corrective services programs; increasing participation in throughcare; creating outreach support to aid compliance with community-based orders; and maximising existing diversion options.
10.12 The Partnership and its actions are to be monitored by the Elected Body and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Sub-committee of the ACT Public Service Strategic Board. Annual community forums seeking feedback from the community on the effectiveness of service outcomes are to be held, and publicly available progress reports are to be submitted to the ACT Attorney-General annually.
10.13 The ALRC welcomes comments and submissions on the operation of the Partnership in the ACT.
The Victorian agreements
10.14 Victoria has taken a long-term, staged approach to developing an AJA. The first phase began with AJA1 which, among other things, created infrastructure to facilitate ongoing collaboration with government and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander groups, including the creation of the Aboriginal Justice Forum and Regional and Local Aboriginal Justice Advisory Committees (RAJAC).
10.15 The Aboriginal Justice Forum (AJF) meets three times per year and is constituted by Victorian justice government representatives and the Koori Caucus. The Caucus is comprised of representatives from the nine RAJACs and other peak Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations. The Caucus meets six weeks prior to the AJF for a minimum of two days to determine and discuss issues for the agenda, and again the day before the AJF.
10.16 AJA2 outlined a government action plan and set benchmarks for monitoring the success of the programs developed under the Agreement. Among other programs, it included the Local Justice Worker Program and the delivery of the Wulgunggo-Ngalu Learning Place residential diversion program for men (discussed in Chapter 7).
10.17 The Victorian AJAs were evaluated in 2012. The evaluation found that the Agreements delivered ‘significant improvements in justice outcomes for Koories in Victoria’, but that there was more to do. For example, it found that there had not been a proportionate focus on the needs of Koori women, categorising this omission as a ‘key risk point in the system that could be strengthened to reduce over-representation’.
10.18 The evaluation found that, while Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander over-representation had increased, the increase was less than would have been expected without AJA2. The evaluation further found that AJA2 had delivered ‘gross benefits’ to Victoria of between $22 and $26 million, and it recommended the development of AJA3.
10.19 AJA3 was introduced in 2013. It expanded on the programs—including diversion programs for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women—and targets of AJA2. It will undergo evaluation in 2018.
10.20 AJAs in Victoria have been well-received. In preliminary consultations with Victorian stakeholders, the ALRC heard that these agreements have facilitated partnerships and justice programs that would not have otherwise occurred.
Related government strategies
10.21 Other states and territories may not have specific AJAs, but they do have policies, frameworks and strategies related to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander incarceration rates. These are many, and include the adoption of Reconciliation Action Plans by government departments.
10.22 Some relevant policies may have been developed under the National Indigenous Law and Justice Framework 2009–2015 (the Framework)—an initiative of the then Standing Committee of Attorneys-General—designed to guide states and territories on ‘good practice’ approaches to eliminate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander disadvantage in law and justice; and to close the gap in law and justice outcomes.
10.23 One of the goals of the Frameworkwas to reduce over-representation in the criminal justice system, and states and territories were encouraged to develop and trial innovative crime prevention initiatives in partnership with communities. It intended to provide an opportunity for government, NGOs and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples ‘to build on existing partnerships and agreements to identify and develop the most appropriate response to law and justice issues’. The ACT AJA was developed under the Framework.
10.24 The Frameworknoted its link with work undertaken by states and territories under the national ‘Closing the Gap’ commitments—particularly with work related to the commitment to build safe communities. The Framework formed one of three national policy vehicles in that regard. Closing the Gap is further discussed below.
Fiona Allison and Chris Cunneen, ‘The Role of Indigenous Justice Agreements in Improving Legal and Social Outcomes for Indigenous People’ (2010) 32 Sydney Law Review 645, 648–649.
Fiona Allison and Chris Cunneen, ‘Indigenous Justice Agreements’ (Current Initiatives No 4, Indigenous Justice Clearinghouse, June 2013) 1–2.
See, eg, parties to the Queensland and Victorian Aboriginal Justice Agreement.
As noted below, it was developed with reference to the National Indigenous Law and Justice Framework 2009–2015.
ACT Government, ACT Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Justice Partnership 2015–2016 (2015) 3.
Allison and Cunneen, above n 2, 4.
Nous Group, Evaluation of the Aboriginal Justice Agreement—Phase 2: Final Report (2012) 26–28.
Ibid 52–4; Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission, Unfinished Business: Koori Women and the Justice System (2013) 26.
Nous Group, Evaluation of the Aboriginal Justice Agreement—Phase 2: Final Report (2012) 4, 5, figure 1.
Standing Committee of Attorneys-General, National Indigenous Law and Justice Framework 2009-2015 (2010).
Ibid goal 2.
ACT Government, above n 5, 24.
Standing Committee of Attorneys-General, above n 15, 6.
The two other policies were The National Council’s Plan to Reduce Violence Against Women and their Children 2009–2021, and the National Framework for Protecting Australia’s Children 2009–2020.