Impact on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples

Question 13–1           What laws or legal frameworks, if any, are required to facilitate justice reinvestment initiatives for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples?

13.7     Justice reinvestment has received widespread support in previous inquiries, including some of those referred to in the Terms of Reference for this Inquiry.[6] For example, the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs References Committee report, Value of a Justice Reinvestment Approach to Criminal Justice in Australia recommended that the Commonwealth Government take a ‘leadership role’ in implementing justice reinvestment in Australia, particularly in relation to issues of funding, data collection, and evaluation. In particular, the inquiry recommended that

the Commonwealth commit to the establishment of a trial of justice reinvestment in Australia in conjunction with the relevant states and territories, using a place-based approach, and that at least one remote Indigenous community be included as a site … the committee recommends that any trial actively involve local communities in the process … beyond the electoral cycle and be subject to a robust evaluation process.[7]

13.8     In preliminary consultations, the ALRC has heard widespread support for justice reinvestment initiatives for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

The Maranguka Project: Bourke, NSW

13.9     Much of the support for justice reinvestment has been articulated in relation to the Maranguka Project operating in Bourke, NSW—a collaboration betweenJust Reinvest NSWand Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander residents. In 2015–16, Bourke was reportedly one of the most disadvantaged Local Government Areas in NSW, and the area had the highest rate of juvenile convictions in the state.[8] The town was affected by high rates of long-term unemployment, low levels of education, and high rates of predominantly non-violent crime.[9]

13.10  In 2015–16, Bourke had a population of approximately 3,000 and was reportedly spending $4,000,000 in costs associated with youth involvement in the juvenile justice system.[10] One in three community members of Bourke identified as Aboriginal.[11]

13.11  As explained by Just Reinvest NSW, the Marunguka Project seeks to provide

better coordinated support to vulnerable families and children in Bourke through community-led teams working in partnership with existing service providers, so that together we could look at what’s happening in our town and why Aboriginal disadvantage was not improving, and together we could build a new accountability framework which wouldn’t let our kids slip through.[12]

13.12  In order to ensure the initiative was community-led, Mick Gooda, the former Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner, who has been heavily involved in the Maranguka Project, explained:

We decided to work with the community in a real and meaningful way. We did not start off with a plan; we just started talking to people. My role out there was to chair community meetings as an independent person from outside of Bourke. We spent about 18 months doing that, just talking to people, the community talking amongst themselves, before they were ready to make their first foray into change…
I think the key to what is happening at Bourke is that the Bourke community runs it, the Bourke community owns it, and they are the ones that coordinate all the service providers.[13]

13.13  A number of pilot initiatives have also been ongoing in the ACT as well as Cowra (NSW), Katherine (NT) and Ceduna (SA).[14]

13.14  The ALRC welcomes submissions on whether laws and legal frameworks require reform in order to facilitate justice reinvestment responses such as the Maranguka Project.