5.1 Up to one third of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in prison are held on remand awaiting trial or sentence. A large proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people held on remand do not receive a custodial sentence upon conviction, or may be sentenced to time served while on remand. This particularly affects female Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander prisoners, and suggests that many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander prisoners may be held on remand for otherwise low-level offending.
5.2 Irregular employment, previous convictions for often low-level offending, and a lack of secure accommodation can disadvantage some accused Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people when applying for bail. Furthermore, when bail is granted, cultural obligations to attend sorry business following a death in the family or community, or to take care of family may conflict with commonly issued bail conditions—such as curfews and exclusion orders—leading to breach of bail conditions, revocation of bail and subsequent imprisonment. This issue has continued despite existing laws and legal frameworks that enable some bail authorities to take cultural considerations into account.
5.3 The recommendations in this chapter seek to enable Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples accused of low-level offending to be granted bail in circumstances where risk can be appropriately managed.
5.4 As a means of decreasing the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in prison held on remand, bail laws should require bail authorities to consider issues and circumstances arising from a person’s Aboriginality when making bail determinations. Victoria introduced a model provision in 2010, which the ALRC recommends be adopted in other state and territory bail statutes.
5.5 The effect of this provision may be diminished through limited application and use by legal advocates, and deficiencies in culturally appropriate bail support services and diversion programs. For these reasons, the ALRC further recommends that state and territory governments work with relevant Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations and legal bodies to produce usage guidelines for the judiciary and legal practitioners, and to identify gaps in the provision of bail supports. Implementation of these recommendations would likely be assisted by the uptake of Aboriginal Justice Agreements, discussed in Chapter 16.
5.6 The ALRC stresses the interdependency of these recommendations, and encourages governments to consider them a holistic package for bail law reform.