ATSILS QLD Legal Service Delivery

ATSILS calls for Government to act on ALRC recommendations to tackle soaring incarceration rates.

ALRC_March2018The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Service (QLD) Ltd welcomes the report and recommendations of the Australian Law Reform Commission’s ‘Pathways to Justice – Inquiry into Incarceration Rates of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples’ tabled in Parliament today.

ATSILS CEO Shane Duffy said, “This report is yet another validation of the extreme disadvantage Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people face day to day when coming in contact with the justice system and presents clear, evidence based solutions that can address the disproportionate rate at which Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are incarcerated.”

“The recommendations handed down in this report provides yet another opportunity for all levels of government to turn their rhetoric into action and work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and organisations to implement real change and create safer communities” said Mr Duffy.

“Back in 1991 the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody also found that an unfair and discriminatory justice system was failing our people and fuelling over-incarceration. It offered comprehensive solutions that could affect change through its 339 recommendations, but these were left on the shelf largely ignored and unimplemented by governments. Fast forward almost 3 decades later and here we are today grappling with an even more complex and rapidly growing problem so shameful the Federal Government has labelled it a ‘National Disgrace’. We can’t let this history of inaction continue to repeat and drop the ball on this again,” Mr Duffy said.

Research commissioned by ALRC shows the magnitude of the crisis we are dealing with today with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men found to be 14.7 times more likely to be imprisoned than non-Indigenous men, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women found to be 21.2 times more likely to be imprisoned than non-Indigenous women. Between 2006 and 2016 imprisonment rates have increased by 41%. The report noted that Although Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults make up around 2 per cent of the national population, they constitute 27 per cent of the national prison population.

As a matter of priority and in line with our national peak body (National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services) we call on Governments to:

  • Implement a National Justice target as part of Close the Gap framework.
  • Promote justice reinvestment through redirection of resources from incarceration to prevention, rehabilitation and support, in order to reduce reoffending and the long-term economic cost of incarceration of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
  • Engage and empower Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to provide basic universal services and adequately resource innovative community led solutions.
  • Abolish mandatory sentencing, which disproportionately affects Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and increasing more culturally appropriate diversionary options and community-based alternatives.
  • Reform laws so that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are not sent to prison for minor offences such as offensive language or unpaid fines.
  • Fix bail and sentencing laws so that a person’s cultural experience can be taken into account.
  • Adequately resource and provide funding certainty to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services, Community Legal Centres and Legal Aid Commissions more broadly. Ensuring access to justice for vulnerable community groups fundamentally requires sufficient, sustainable and ongoing funding for legal assistance providers.
  • Enact mandatory Custody Notification Systems in partnership with every ATSILS.


Media Contact:
Josh Herd for Shane Duffy, CEO Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Service Qld, email josh.herd@atsils.org.au or phone 0439 561 775.

View/Print Media Release PDF:
https://bit.ly/2pL8g9Y

ATSILS QLD Legal Service Delivery

ATSILS ensuring access to justice across the Torres Strait

ATSILS Torres Strait Service DeliveryRecently our CEO and Communications team journeyed with our Thursday Island staff on their Outer Islands Magistrate Court Circuit throughout the Torres Strait. 

 

In one of the State’s most remote regions ATSILS is the primary legal assistance provider and we are committed to ensuring the diverse communities across the Torres Strait and Northern Peninsula Area have access to professional legal assistance and representation. 

 

It was great to see the local team in action and spend time with communities on the Islands of Warraber, Boigu, Mabuiag, Saibai and Badu and get insight into the justice issues they face so we can continue to tune our services to respond to local need.

 

Our team operate from our regional office on Thursday Island and they are an exemplar of ATSILS innovative brand of service delivery, they are highly engaged with community and display a tireless commitment to people they represent under challenging conditions. They have established a respectful and collegiate working relationship with the Magistrate, Justice Groups, Police Prosecution, Community Police and other officers of the court and work as an effective team to enhance access to justice for some of Queensland’s most remote populations.

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Free to Be Kids – National Plan of Action released

A plan to transform the justice system for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children

Today the Change the Record Coalition launched an eight-point plan -Free to be Kids – National Plan of Action – to transform the youth justice system and prevent abuse of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children in prisons.

“The time to act is now. This is an historic opportunity for the Federal Government to make a difference for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children,” said Antoinette Braybrook, Co-Chair of Change the Record.

“The Royal Commission into Protection and Detention of Children in the Northern Territory demonstrated shocking abuse of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in prisons, and we know that similar abuses are happening right around the country,” said Cheryl Axleby, Co-Chair of Change the Record.

Change the Record has said the Federal Government must:

Support children, families and communities to stay strong and together
Raise the age of criminal responsibility to 14
Get children who are not sentenced out of prison
Adequately fund Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community-controlled legal and other support services
End abusive practices in prisons
Set targets to end the overrepresentation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in prison
Improve collection and use of data
Work through COAG to reform State and Territory laws that breach children’s rights

Download Free to be Kids – National Plan of Action [PDF]

 

Change the Record - Free to be Kids

 

 

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OPCAT – Torture Prevention Treaty.

The Optional Protocol to the UN Convention against Torture – OPCAT – sends a clear message: the risk of torture and other ill-treatment exists in all situations where persons are deprived of their liberty. Therefore, prevention is needed everywhere and at all times.

At ATSILS we’re calling on the Australian Government to ratify OPCAT as a matter of urgency to protect the rights of all in detention.

The UN Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture (OPCAT) is an international agreement which aims to prevent torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment in detention.

Learn More: Australian Human Rights Commission: OPCAT and Australia
https://www.humanrights.gov.au/news/stories/opcat-and-australia

 

Change the Record

Media Release: Australian Law Reform Commission inquiry into Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander imprisonment must focus on solutions

MEDIA RELEASE: 27.10.16

A major national inquiry into the over-imprisonment of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples must focus on identifying tangible solutions that address the underlying causes of imprisonment, says the Change the Record (CTR) Coalition. In welcoming today’s announcement of an Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) inquiry into the over-imprisonment of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, the coalition of peak Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander, human rights and legal organisations has said it is essential that the inquiry focus on practical measures that invest in and strengthen communities.

CTR Co-Chair Shane Duffy said, “For a long time we have been calling for the Federal Government to take a leadership role on these issues, and so we welcome the Turnbull Government beginning to step up to the plate”.

“This year marks 25 years since the landmark Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody (RCIADIC), but our people continue to experience imprisonment and violence at crisis rates. The new ALRC inquiry offers an important opportunity to shine a comprehensive light on these issues at a national level, and identify tangible actions for all levels of government” said Mr Duffy.

At the time the RCIADIC report was handed down  Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people were seven times more likely to be in prison, now in 2016 that figure has risen to 13 times. At the same time Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women are experiencing high rates of violence, being 34 times more likely to be hospitalised for family violence related assault.

“We know that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander imprisonment rates, and experience of violence, are strongly linked to social and economic disadvantage and so the inquiry must include a focus on early intervention, prevention and diversion programs” said Mr Duffy.

View Full Media Release

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ATSILS Court Support Officers - Carl and Pam

Court Support & Prisoner Throughcare – Innovative Service Delivery in North Queensland

Last week the Marketing and Communications team visited our Townsville office to capture some key insights into our specialist Court Support and Prisoner Throughcare roles. It was fantastic to hear about some of the innovative work they’re doing to support the local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community.

Our Prisoner Throughcare Program (PTC) in Townsville assist women, men and our young people at high risk of re-offending by connecting them to culture, community and support services relevant to their particular needs. The support networks the team design for each case provides clients with a strong platform for them to break their cycle of offending. The program is a prime example of a justice reinvestment approach in action with both proactive and reactive responses used to successfully divert many away from the criminal justice system.

It was also great to spend time with our Court Support Officers (CSOs) and it quickly became clear why they are the heart & soul of our culturally competent service delivery. Our CSOs are usually local people with strong connections to the community. They are highly skilled professionals that can effectively engage mob, enhance communication between our lawyers and clients and do their best to ensure mob understand their legal rights at all times. Our committed CSOs work hard to break down the many barriers preventing equal access to justice for the most vulnerable people in our communities.

A big thank you to Michael and all the team for their warm welcome and especially to the staff who took time out of their busy schedules to share their stories and talk about the inspiring work they’re doing on camera. Stay tuned for the upcoming video resources starring the deadly Townsville team.

SWQ Court Circuit Oct 2016

Rural and Remote Court Circuits – Servicing South West Queensland

Last week our Director of Communications and Sector Engagement Graham joined Di and Divina on the road to justice in South West Queensland. Graham got to see first hand the great work they do in assisting clients on rural and remote court circuits in this vast region.

The journey was a good opportunity to gain insight into the high demand for our services in these rural locations with the team working long days dealing with a high volume of matters and roughing it in the flash 5-star court facilities in towns like St George.

In many regions across this great state ATSILS undertake court circuits to ensure access to justice for the many mobs living in locations where no -one else will go. At the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Service a critical element of our business model is making sure our services reach not only the socially disadvantaged but also the geographically disadvantaged in rural and remote locations.

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NEW – Murri Court Website Launched. Great resources available for defendants, stakeholders & the public.

The webpage features information on how the Murri Court process works along with information on the history of the court. Intended for use by stakeholders, Community Justice Groups, defendants, and the general public, the Murri Court webpage is the first of the Courts Innovation Program’s webpages to be revamped as DJAG continue our effort to keep our programs accessible to the community.

The webpage now provides links to a variety of documents including:

· Murri Court forms and templates including payment claim forms
· Murri Court brochure, poster, and factsheets
· Murri Court videos
· Murri Court practice direction and important legislation
· Murri Court feedback report
· Murri Court evaluation report

The Murri Court Website can be found here:

http://www.courts.qld.gov.au/courts/courts-innovation-programs/murri-court

 

What is Murri Court?