As part of the five-year agreement – which was developed in response to the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody – the state government has put forward $40.3 million for the latest phase, to better ensure strong and safe families and communities, have fewer Aboriginal people in the criminal justice system, enact a more effective justice system with greater Aboriginal involvement and increased self-determination in the justice sector.
“We’re working towards closing the gap in Victoria through our treaty process and strengthening self-determination for Aboriginal Victorians,” said Minister for Aboriginal Affairs Natalie Hutchins.
The funding to implement the agreement includes $15 million for community-led self-determination initiatives; $12.3 million to expand Koori Courts into the County, Magistrates’ and Children’s Courts; $10.8 million for youth justice initiatives; and $2.2 million to expand the Statewide Indigenous Arts in Prisons and Community Program.
In addition, a further $600,000 is being provided to begin developing a new non-custodial facility to help Aboriginal women “get back on track”.
“This is the biggest investment in the agreement’s history and sets out a framework for reducing the over-representation of Aboriginal people in Victoria’s justice system,” said Victorian Attorney-General Martin Pakula.
“This agreement is the product of deep and thoughtful engagement by the Aboriginal community and government and continues a proud tradition of achievement that is unique to our state.”
The announcement follows the Aboriginal Legal Service (NSW/ACT) endorsement of the recommendations made by the Law Council of Australia’s Project Justice Report, which advocated for Justice Impact Tests to better improve access to legal assistance.
Jerome Doraisamy is a senior writer for Lawyers Weekly and Wellness Daily. He is also the author of The Wellness Doctrines book series, an admitted solicitor in NSW, an adjunct lecturer at The University of Western Australia and is a board director of Minds Count.