The scope of each ALRC inquiry is defined by the Terms of Reference. The recommendations for reform must sit within this scope and need to be built on an appropriate conceptual framework and evidence base.
A major aspect of building the evidence base to support the formulation of ALRC recommendations for reform is consultation, acknowledging that widespread community consultation is a hallmark of best practice law reform. Pursuant to section 38 of the Australian Law Reform Commission Act 1996 (Cth), the ALRC ‘may inform itself in any way it thinks fit’ for the purposes of reviewing or considering anything that is the subject of an inquiry.
The process for each law reform project may differ according to the scope of the inquiry, the range of stakeholders, the complexity of the laws under review, and the period of time allotted for the inquiry, as set out in the Terms of Reference. For each inquiry, the ALRC determines a consultation strategy in response to its particular subject matter and likely stakeholder interest groups. While the exact procedure is tailored to suit each inquiry, the ALRC usually works within an established framework, outlined on the ALRC website.
The ALRC undertook a national consultation process to gain an understanding of the key issues in the Inquiry, and the broader context in which Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are incarcerated. The ALRC conducted 149 consultations with key stakeholders across the country. A list of those consulted is included in this Report. The ALRC received 121 public and six confidential submissions in response to a Discussion Paper published on 19 July 2017. These submissions came from a wide range of people and organisations, including: individuals in their private capacity; academics; lawyers; Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations and legal services; law societies and representative groups; legal aid organisations; community legal advocacy groups; peak bodies; and state and territory governments. Consultations and submissions, together with other research, including earlier reports and inquiries, have informed the recommendations for reform in this Report. The ALRC thanks all stakeholders for the important contribution they have made to our evidence base.
In addition to the contribution of expertise by way of consultations and submissions, specific expertise is also received by the ALRC from members of its Advisory Committee and part-time Commissioners. The Advisory Committee met on three occasions during the course of the Inquiry. A list of Advisory Committee members is included at the front of this Report. While ultimate responsibility for the recommendations lies with the Commissioners of the ALRC, Advisory Committee members provide quality assurance in the consultation and research process, assist in the identification of key issues, and contribute to the determination of the final recommendations. The ALRC acknowledges the considerable contribution made by the Advisory Committee members, our part-time Commissioners, and expert readers and expresses its gratitude to them for voluntarily providing their time and expertise.