How can we escape the quicksand of Australian justice systems?
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leaders, communities and organisations have called on the Federal Government to act on a key report which tackles the over-representation of Indigenous people in Australian justice systems.
Thirty-five prominent academics and organisations are signatories to an open letter to Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Indigenous Affairs minister Nigel Scullion.
They include Just Reinvest NSW Champion Professor Tom Calma; co-chair of the National Aboriginal Torres Strait Islander Legal Services Cheryl Axleby; and executive director of Maranguka Justice Reinvestment Project, in Bourke NSW, Alistair Ferguson.
The letter calls on the Federal Government to act on the Australian Law Reform Commission’s Pathways to Justice report which recommends 35 ways to reduce the over-representation of Indigenous peoples in the criminal justice system and to improve community safety.
The report was tabled in Federal Parliament almost six months ago.
“Ever since the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody over 25 years ago, we have seen numerous inquiries and reports that identify what government needs to do to address this national tragedy,” Professor Calma said.
“The Federal Government has the answers it needs. We are well overdue for action.”
Ms Axleby said the Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) report highlighted the need for justice reinvestment — which reallocates taxpayer dollars from prisons back into communities.
“The Federal Government must drive national change by establishing an independent national justice reinvestment body,” she said.
“This must be led by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities for self-determination and long-term success.”
“We agree with the ALRC that these holistic approaches are critical to pulling people out of the quicksand of the justice system and to leading healthy, happy lives.”
The ALRC’s recommendations include supporting justice reinvestment trials nationally.
Meanwhile, medical, children’s welfare, criminology, legal, Indigenous and human rights experts were today due to call on the Queensland government to raise the minimum age the state locks up children from 10 to 14, Amnesty International said.
The human rights organisation said Queensland locked up the biggest number of 10 to 13-year-olds of any Australian state or territory.
By Wendy Caccetta.
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