10.1 There are numerous programs in place that aim to divert Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples from the criminal justice system, or to prevent re-entry following sentence. Some of these have been summarised or referred to in the previous chapters. The ALRC has been told, however, that many of these programs are run in isolation by particular individuals or groups; are not evaluated; and, in some cases, their development is not underpinned by the participation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community members. These issues can result in an unsystematic approach: programs can be difficult to track; outcomes or impacts are unknown; and programs that are doing well may be vulnerable to budget measures. It can also preserve a ‘top down’ approach which excludes or minimises Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community participation.
10.2 Aboriginal Justice Agreements (AJAs) were introduced in some states and territories as a way to preserve collaboration and accountability regarding the contact of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples with the criminal justice system and consequent incarceration. AJAs have historically represented a coalition between peak Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations and state or territory governments to improve justice outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
10.3 In this chapter, the ALRC identifies the various AJAs of the states and territories, with particular focus on the agreement developed in Victoria. The ALRC proposes the introduction and renewal of state and territory based AJAs. As most states and territories have had experience with AJAs, the ALRC seeks feedback on the value of AJAs, and any obstacles to renewing, developing or implementing such agreements.
10.4 The ALRC also asks whether justice targets should be introduced when the Commonwealth Government renews the ‘Closing the Gap’ policy.