House of Representatives Committees

| House of Representatives Standing Committee on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs

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Preliminary pages

Foreword

It has been 20 years since the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody Report and yet the incarceration rate of Indigenous Australians, including Indigenous youth, is worse now. Indigenous juveniles are 28 times more likely than non-Indigenous juveniles to be incarcerated, despite Indigenous peoples representing only 2.5 percent of the Australian population. This is a shameful state of affairs.

Indigenous social and economic disadvantage have contributed to the high levels of Indigenous contact with the criminal justice system. Sadly, the Committee found there is intergenerational dysfunction in some Indigenous communities which presents a significant challenge to break the cycle of offending, recidivism and incarceration.

The Committee examined current policy arrangements for overcoming Indigenous disadvantage and found it concerning that the Council of Australian Government’s (COAG’s) Closing the Gap Strategy did not include a National Partnership Agreement dedicated to the Safe Communities Building Block, nor did it include specific targets relating to justice. The Committee found this concerning in view of the weight of evidence it received during the inquiry that linked unsafe communities to the development of negative social norms and increasingly high rates of juvenile offending.

The Committee has made 40 recommendations to Government and believes that to effect change in the area of Indigenous disadvantage and disproportionate incarceration rates, the following principles must be applied:

  • engage and empower Indigenous communities in the development and implementation of policy and programs

  • address the needs of Indigenous families and communities as a whole

  • integrate and coordinate initiatives by government agencies, non-government agencies, and local individuals and groups

  • focus on early intervention and the wellbeing of Indigenous children rather than punitive responses, and

  • engage Indigenous leaders and elders in positions of responsibility and respect.

We need to ensure that Indigenous Australians, including Indigenous youth, are given every opportunity to contribute positively not just to their communities but to Australian society as a whole. The Committee recognises the effective and dedicated local Indigenous community organisations and individuals who deliver programs to reduce the high incarceration rate of Indigenous youth.

A wide range of stakeholders contributed to this inquiry, with a variety of views on the overrepresentation of Indigenous juveniles and young adults in the criminal justice system.  The Committee would like to thank all of those individuals and organisations who contributed to the inquiry by way of submissions and exhibits, or who had their say at the public hearings and roundtable.

I wish to thank the former Chair, the Hon. Bob Debus, and the Committee of the 42nd Parliament for their contribution to this inquiry, recognising the significant amount of work and time undertaken to collect a large body of evidence for this report.

Too many Indigenous juveniles and youth have done time in our detention centres and prisons. Now it is time to do something about it. It is my hope that this report, Doing Time – Time for Doing, will assist in bringing about positive change for Indigenous Australians and that the future will be one of strength and partnership between all Australians.


Mr Shayne Neumann MP
Chair


Membership of the Committee

43rd Parliament

Chair

Mr Shayne Neumann MP

 

Deputy Chair

The Hon. Dr Sharman Stone MP

 

Members

Mr Ed Husic MP

Mr Barry Haase MP

 

Ms Sharon Grierson MP

Mrs Natasha Griggs MP

 

Mr Graham Perrett MP



42nd Parliament

Chair

The Hon. Bob Debus MP

 

Deputy Chair

Mr Andrew Laming MP

 

Members

Mr Chris Trevor

Mr Jim Turnour MP

 

Ms Kerry Rea MP

Ms Jodie Campbell MP

 

Mr Kelvin Thomson MP

The Hon. Danna Vale MP

The Hon. Kevin Andrews MP

Mr Robert Oakeshott MP



Committee Secretariat

43rd Parliament

Secretary

Dr Anna Dacre

Inquiry Secretary

Ms Susan Cardell

Ms Rebecca Gordon

Research Officer

Dr John White

Office Manager

Mrs Donna Quintus-Bosz



42nd Parliament

Secretary

Dr Anna Dacre

Inquiry Secretary

Ms Susan Cardell

Ms Rebecca Gordon

Senior Research Officers

Mr Ben Mudaliar

Ms Natalya Wells

Office Manager

 

Ms Tamara Palmer


Terms of reference
 

The Committee shall inquire into the high levels of involvement of Indigenous juveniles and young adults in the criminal justice system. With a particular focus on prevention and early intervention, the Committee will identify:


  • How the development of social norms and behaviours for Indigenous juveniles and young adults can lead to positive social engagement

  • The impact that alcohol use and other substance abuse has on the level of Indigenous juvenile and young adult involvement in the criminal justice system and how health and justice authorities can work together to address this

  • Any initiatives which would improve the effectiveness of the education system in contributing to reducing the levels of involvement of Indigenous juveniles and young adults with the criminal justice system

  • The effectiveness of arrangements for transitioning from education to work and how the effectiveness of the ‘learn or earn’ concept can be maximised

  • Best practice examples of programs that support diversion of Indigenous people from juvenile detention centres and crime, and provide support for those returning from such centres

  • The scope for clearer responsibilities within and between government jurisdictions to achieve better co-ordinated and targeted service provision for Indigenous juveniles and young adults in the justice system

  • The extent to which current preventative programs across government jurisdictions are aligned against common goals to improve the health and emotional well-being of Indigenous adolescents, any gaps or duplication in effort, and recommendations for their modification or enhancement.


List of acronyms

ABS Australian Bureau of Statistics

AC

Aboriginal Connections

ACCG Australian Children’s Commissioners and Guardians

ACT

Australian Capital Territory

ADAC Aboriginal Drug and Alcohol Council
ADCA Alcohol and Other Drugs Council of Australia
ADF Australian Defence Force

AFL

Australian Football League

AHL Aboriginal Hostels Limited

AG’s

Attorney-General’s Department

AIC

Australian Institute of Criminology

AIHW

Australian Institute of Health of Welfare

AJA2

The Victorian Aboriginal Justice Agreement Phase 2

ALRM

Australian Legal Rights Movement

ALSWA Aboriginal Legal Service of Western Australia
ANU Australian National University
ANTaR Australians for Native Title and Reconciliation
APY Anangu, Pitjantjatjara and Yankunytjatjara Lands
ASC Australian Sports Commission

ASTB

Aboriginal School Based Training

ATSILS Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services

AVPRSS

Adult Voluntary Post Release Support Service

CAHABPS

Central After Hours Assessment and Bail Placement Service

CAYLUS Central Australian Youth Link-Up Service
CCC Communities for Children Committee
CDEP Community Development Employment Projects

CfC Plus

Communities for Children Plus

COAG

Council of Australian Governments

FaHCSIA

Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs

IDDI National Illicit Drug Diversion Initiative

IEAP

Indigenous Education Action Plan

IFSA Indigenous Family Safety Agenda
IPROWD Indigenous Police Recruitment Out West Delivery
IPSS Indigenous Parenting Support Services

ISP

Intensive Supervision Program

IYMP

Indigenous Youth Mobility Program

MCPEMP

Ministerial Council for Police and Emergency Management – Police

MERIT

Magistrates Early Referral into Treatment

MHATODS

Mental Health Alcohol Tobacco and Other Drugs Service

MSHR

Menzies School of Health Research

NAAJA

North Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency

NAHA

National Affordable Housing Agreement

NAIDOC

National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee

NAJAC National Aboriginal Justice Advisory Council
NATSISS National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey
NGO Non-Government Organisation
NIDAC National Indigenous Drug and Alcohol Committee
PHaMS Personal Helpers and Mentors
PIAC Public Interest Advocacy Centre
PRP Pre-Release Prisoner
PRSP Post-Release Support Program
QPS Queensland Police Service
VLA Victoria Legal Aid
WAACH Western Australian Aboriginal Child Health

YDAC

Youth Drug and Alcohol Court




List of recommendations

Indigenous youth and the criminal justice system: an overview

Recommendation 1 - National Partnership Agreement

The Committee recommends that the Commonwealth Government develop a National Partnership Agreement dedicated to the Safe Communities Building Block and present this to the Council of Australian Governments by December 2011 for inclusion in the Closing the Gap strategy.

Recommendation 2 - Justice targets

The Committee recommends that the Commonwealth Government endorse justice targets developed by the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General for inclusion in the Council of Australian Governments’ Closing the Gap strategy. These targets should then be monitored and reported against.

The role of positive social norms

Recommendation 3 – Positive social norms

The Committee recommends the Commonwealth Government continue to fund holistic, intergovernmental services to Indigenous youth and their families and communities, such as Communities for Children Plus, and evaluate their effectiveness in strengthening positive social norms in communities and preventing Indigenous youth engagement with the criminal justice system.

Recommendation 4 - Mentors

The Committee recommends the Commonwealth Government support a national program to develop and provide local mentors for Indigenous youth at risk before, during and after custody.

Recommendation 5 – Sport and recreation

The Committee recommends the Commonwealth Government:

  • work with state and territory governments to support more sporting, music and other recreational activities for Indigenous children and youth outside of school hours, particularly in remote and regional areas

  • encourage sporting bodies and sporting celebrities to become more involved in organising sporting engagement for Indigenous children and youth

  • ensure continued funding for sports partnership programs and the provision of infrastructure and services to ensure sports participation by Indigenous youth, and

  • investigate and address impediments to sports participation for Indigenous young men and women.

Recommendation 6 – Identification documents

The Committee recommends the Commonwealth Government:

Recommendation 7 - Accommodation

The Committee recommends that the Commonwealth Government commit to ensuring that there exists within all states and territories an expanded number and range of safe and gender-appropriate accommodation options for Indigenous children and youth. These options should include access to coordinated and holistic intensive care services. A housing or accommodation plan needs to have been identified for every youth leaving detention.

The Committee suggests that the range of appropriate accommodation options should include extended family houses, identified safe houses, hostel and school accommodation, foster and respite care, and emergency refuge accommodation.

The link between health and the criminal justice system

Recommendation 8 – Alcohol and substance abuse

The Committee recommends that, in collaboration with state and territory governments, the Commonwealth Government increase funding for locally based alcohol, anti-smoking and substance abuse programs.

Recommendation 9 – Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder

The Committee recommends that the Commonwealth Government urgently addresses the high incidence of Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder in Indigenous communities by:


Recommendation 10 – Mental health

The Committee recommends the Commonwealth Government recognise mental health as a significant issue affecting Indigenous youth and collaborate with the states and territories to direct funding where possible to successful Indigenous community developed and led programs with a focus on healing, culture, emotional wellbeing and reconnection with family.

Recommendation 11 – Hearing tests

The Committee recommends that the Commonwealth Government provide all Indigenous children starting pre‑school with comprehensive hearing tests with appropriate follow-up support when required.

The Committee further recommends that all Indigenous children between kindergarten and Year 2 be tested as an urgent priority due to the high incidence and impacts of hearing impairments amongst Indigenous children, particularly in rural and remote areas.

Recommendation 12 – Sound amplification systems

The Committee recommends that the Commonwealth Government allocate funding for sound amplification systems in schools with high Indigenous enrolments throughout Australia, with urgent attention to schools in remote areas.

Recommendation 13 – Police training to identify hearing loss

The Committee recommends that the Attorney-General take to the Ministerial Council for Police and Emergency Management – Police (MCPEMP) at its second meeting in 2011, a proposed program of training for police to better identify and respond to individuals with hearing loss, particularly in Indigenous communities.

Recommendation 14 – Pre-natal and anti-natal support

The Committee recommends the Commonwealth Government work with state and territory governments to coordinate greater capacity for Indigenous health services to provide further programs to support:

Recommendation 15 - Health

The Committee recommends that the Commonwealth Government, in collaboration with state and territory governments, ensure all Indigenous youth who enter the criminal justice system are provided with:

Recommendation 16 – School and community relationships

The Committee recommends that the Minister for Education work through the Ministerial Council on Education, Employment, Training and Youth Affairs assist schools throughout Australia to deliver better education outcomes for Indigenous students and to foster more connected and positive relationships with their local Indigenous community. The Committee considers that as a minimum schools should be incorporating a range of the following activities within the school:

Recommendation 17 – School attendance data

The Committee recommends that the Minister of Education immediately conduct a review into how daily school attendance and retention rates are measured to ensure that data collected can accurately inform strategies to increase attendance and retention rates and monitor progress in these areas.

Recommendation 18 – School attendance incentive programs

The Committee recommends that the Commonwealth Government commit to the provision of funds and administrative assistance to establish and expand across Indigenous communities the number of school attendance incentive programs (such as breakfast and lunch programs, and sporting and cultural activities during and after school).

Recommendation 19 – Teacher development

The Committee recommends that the Minister for Education work with the Ministerial Council on Education, Employment, Training and Youth Affairs develop a comprehensive and mandatory teachers’ professional development program that:

  • provides specialist training on teaching Indigenous children, and where necessary the teaching of English as a second language (ESL)

  • recognises poor English language skills and health and hearing issues which may impact on learning

  • gives teachers a competency in cultural knowledge and sensitivity to assist in working with Indigenous communities and families

  • can be adapted to reflect local Indigenous community needs and culture, and

  • trains the teachers to set and achieve high expectations for Indigenous students.

The Committee also recommends that a portion of the 2011-12 Budget funds allocated to reward top performing teachers is directed towards the formal recognition of outstanding performance in the teaching of Indigenous students, where real outcomes in progress can be demonstrated.

Improving the effectiveness of transitioning from education to the workforce

Recommendation 20 - Apprenticeships

The Committee recommends that the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations provide greater assistance and incentives to increase the uptake of Indigenous apprentices through:

Recommendation 21 – Driver licences

The Committee recommends that the Minister for Infrastructure and Transport, in partnership with relevant state and territory governments, establish:

Recommendation 22 – Defence Force recruitment

The Committee recommends that the Australian Defence Force:

The criminal justice system

Recommendation 23 – Police training and Indigenous employment

The Committee recommends that the Commonwealth Government work with the Ministerial Council for the Administration of Justice to address the following priorities at its next meeting:


Recommendation 24 – Court interpreter service and hearing assistance

The Committee recommends that the Attorney-General present to the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General a revision of criminal justice guidelines to include formal recognition of the requirement to ascertain the need for an interpreter service or hearing assistance when dealing with Indigenous Australians.

Recommendation 25 – National interpreter service

The Committee recommends that the Commonwealth Attorney-General’s Department, in partnership with state and territory governments, establish and fund a national Indigenous interpreter service that includes a dedicated criminal justice resource and is suitably resourced to service remote areas.

The Committee recommends that initial services are introduced in targeted areas of need by 2012 with full services nationwide by 2015.

Recommendation 26 – Legal services funding

The Committee recommends that the Commonwealth Government increase funding for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services to achieve parity per case load with Legal Aid Commission funding in the 2012-13 Federal Budget, with appropriate loadings to cover additional costs in service delivery to regional and remote areas.

Recommendation 27 – Post-release accommodation

The Committee recommends that the Attorney-General take to the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General the proposal to increase funding for appropriate accommodation options for youth who are granted bail, in order to prevent the unnecessary detention of Indigenous youth.

Recommendation 28 – Study on sentencing options

The Committee recommends that the Australian Institute of Criminology undertake an analysis of sentencing options and outcomes for Indigenous youth and young adults and the use of available diversionary options to determine whether alternative sentencing options are fully utilised before resorting to incarceration.

Recommendation 29 – Alternative sentencing options

The Committee recommends that the Attorney-General evaluate outcomes for alternative sentencing options, such as reduced recidivism and improved positive and independent living, and from this research develop a proposal for a range of Indigenous alternative sentencing options and present it to the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General for inclusion in the National Indigenous Law and Justice Framework.

Recommendation 30 – Pre-court conferencing

The Committee recommends that the Attorney-General takes to the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General the proposal for a nationwide program that begins the rehabilitation process of young Indigenous offenders from the point at which they are charged with an offence. The Committee recommends that such a program should include:

  • Assigning a community services case worker to an individual immediately after they have been charged to organise a family conference

  • A victim contact meeting where the offender hears the consequences and impacts of their unlawful actions on the victim

  • Ascertaining, through family conferencing, any underlying problems that are influencing offending behaviour and setting out a plan for behavioural change with clear targets to be achieved prior to attending court. Pre-court plans for the youth could include:

  • Regular attendance at drug and alcohol counselling and medical treatment as required

  • Regular meetings or counselling sessions with a court approved community or family mentor or elder

  • A genuine apology to the victim(s)

  • The development of clear goals and aspirations for living a more productive and independent life

  • Where appropriate, more regular and constructive family engagement

  • A renewed commitment from significant family members to engage with the offender and involve them positively in family life

  • Improvement in school attendance or retention in school, and

  • Improvement in apprenticeship or training outcomes.

Sentencing of individuals who have engaged with this program should take into account any genuine progress towards meeting these targets for behavioural modification.

Recommendation 31 – Indigenous offender programs

The Committee recommends that the Commonwealth Government establish a new pool of adequate and long term funding for young Indigenous offender programs. Organisations and community groups should be able to apply for funding for programs that assist young Indigenous offenders with:
  • Post-release or diversionary program accommodation

  • reintegrating into the community and positive social engagement through volunteering and team involvement

  • reconnecting with culture where possible

  • drug, alcohol and other substance abuse rehabilitation

  • continued education and training or employment, and

  • life and work readiness skills, including literacy and numeracy
The Committee recommends that this fund is geared towards small-scale community-based groups, operating in local areas, and includes a specific stream for programs that address the needs of young Indigenous female offenders. Local employers would be encouraged to mentor and train with a view to employment.
Government policy and coordination

Recommendation 32 – Evaluate Indigenous justice programs

The Committee recommends that the Commonwealth Government commit further resources to evaluate the effectiveness of Indigenous youth justice and diversion programs and that the findings be published on the Indigenous Justice Clearinghouse and the Closing the Gap Clearinghouse websites.

Recommendation 33 – Mapping offending

The Committee recommends that the Commonwealth Government invest in mapping research to identify areas of concentrated youth offending, types of offending and gaps in services, with a focus on Indigenous disadvantage and need.

Recommendation 34 – Expanding data collections

The Committee recommends that the Australian Bureau of Statistics expand its collection of data to include:

  • offender data disaggregated by all jurisdictions and all categories of offence, including traffic and vehicle related offences

  • court appearance data, disaggregated by all jurisdictions by Indigenous status, sex, offence and sentence

  • prisoner reception data disaggregated by all jurisdictions, according to Indigenous status, sex, offence, age, sentence length and episodes of prior offending by category of offence, and

  • data on the rates of which Indigenous people are victims of crime, disaggregated by all jurisdictions and all categories of offence.

The Committee recommends that the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare expands its collection of data to include:

  • detainee receptions and census data disaggregated by jurisdiction, Indigenous status, sex, offence, age, sentence duration and periods of prior offending by category of offence.

The Committee recommends that these expanded data sets are made available by no later than June 2012. This data and any trends it shows should then be annually evaluated and reported on and used to inform future policy or program changes.

Recommendation 35 – Study on the imprisonment of women

The Committee recommends that the Australian Institute of Criminology undertakes a study of the reasons for the increasing imprisonment of Indigenous women, with a view to informing policymakers on how best to address the key drivers of offending and imprisonment and the consequences of that imprisonment for women, their children (if any) and their community.

Recommendation 36 – Indigenous Law and Justice Advisory Body

The Committee recommends that the Commonwealth Government propose to the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples the establishment of a subcommittee to focus on Indigenous law and justice matters. If the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples does not proceed with an Indigenous law and justice subcommittee, the Committee recommends that the Commonwealth Government establish an Indigenous law and justice advisory body.

The Committee recommends that the Commonwealth Government:

Recommendation 37 – Parliamentary Indigenous representation

The Committee recommends that the Commonwealth Government establish an Independent Commission to undertake a series of public consultations and investigate options to increase Indigenous representation in the Parliament, for example, quotas or dedicated seats.

Recommendation 38 – Funding of the Family Responsibilities Commission

The Committee recommends that the Australian Government in partnership with the Queensland Government and the Cape York Institute for Policy and Leadership extend the funding of the Family Responsibility Commission until December 2013, pending further evaluation.

Recommendation 39 – Sustained flexible funding

The Committee recommends that the Commonwealth Government work with state and territory governments to coordinate sustained and flexible funding support for a range of youth justice diversion and rehabilitation services which are developed with and supported by local Indigenous communities.

Recommendation 40 – Justice reinvestment

The Committee supports the principles of justice reinvestment and recommends that governments focus their efforts on early intervention and diversionary programs and that further research be conducted to investigate the justice reinvestment approach in Australia.

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