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

Call for justice targets on 10th anniversary of Apology to Australia’s Stolen Generations

ATSILS supports the strong call by the Law Council of Australia to put Justice Targets back on the national agenda. Justice targets are vital to Closing the Gap & addressing the unacceptable incarceration rates of Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander peoples which is a national crisis.

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View full media release here:
https://www.lawcouncil.asn.au/media/media-releases/call-for-justice-targets-on-10th-anniversary-of-apology-to-australias-indigenous-peoples

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 Logo

Peak Bodies Unite – Landmark Redfern Statement Today

Today we stand by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leaders as they call on all parties to tackle inequality and disadvantage facing Australia’s First People as a federal election priority.

It is time that action is taken on meaningful engagement, health, justice, preventing violence, early childhood and disability. These must be addressed as a matter of national priority and urgency.

The next Federal Government has an unprecedented nation-building opportunity to meaningfully address Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander disadvantage.

It is time that Aboriginal voices are heard and respected. It is time for action.

Read the full statement here: http://bit.ly/1tb7MtE

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Change the Record

Change The Record Coalition meeting in Sydney today calls for national action on justice issues

MEDIA RELEASE – 25.02.16

A coalition of  organisations meeting in Sydney today have called for national action on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander imprisonment and violence rates, following recent positive initiatives by governments in Western Australia and the Northern Territory.  The group includes leading Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander, human rights and legal organisations.

Change the Record Coalition Co-Chair Shane Duffy said, “In the past few weeks, positive steps forward have been taken. We welcome for instance the inclusion of justice targets in the Northern Territory’s new Aboriginal Affairs Policy. We have long called for the development of national justice targets and it is important to see the Territory taking initiative in this area”.

“We also welcome a recent commitment by the Western Australian Government to work towards supporting prevention and diversion initiatives to keep people out of the criminal justice system in the first place. It was also encouraging to hear that Western Australian Government has expanded a support service for Aboriginal people in custody; however what is really needed is a commitment to fund and legislate for a ‘Custody Notification Service’, an independent and mandatory service administered by an Aboriginal community-controlled legal service.”

“Actions speak louder than words, and we remain deeply concerned by the ongoing impact of laws, such as mandatory sentencing and the Northern Territory’s Paperless Arrests scheme, which disproportionately impact upon Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.”

“It was also extremely distressing to hear reports from a Senate Inquiry last week that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women, who are victims/survivors of domestic violence, have intentionally breached bail in order to go back to prison due to a lack of safe support services available in their communities”.

“Governments must translate their plans into tangible and meaningful action.  This can only be achieved in partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and community-controlled organisations,” said Mr Duffy.

View Media Release in Full

Law Council of Australia

National mood for change on Indigenous incarceration must be seized by COAG – The Law Council of Australia

The Law Council of Australia has called on the Federal and State Governments to act on Australia’s disastrous rate of Indigenous imprisonment, following recent positive steps in the Northern Territory and Western Australia.

Earlier this week, the Northern Territory Government announced plans to set justice targets, to halve the rate of Aboriginal imprisonment by 2030, while Western Australia will establish a new 1800 hotline for Aboriginal prisoners in Western Australia, which will help to reduce instances of self-harm and suicide in custody. Law Council of Australia President Stuart Clark AM called on the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) to seize the opportunity for intergovernmental action.

“Australia’s Indigenous incarceration rates represent a national crisis. Justice targets and an intergovernmental strategy on imprisonment and community violence must be on the agenda at the next COAG meeting,” Mr Clark said.

“Indigenous people represent just 2.5 per cent of the population, but 27 per cent of the prison population. Indigenous children represent 50 per cent of those in juvenile detention. This cannot be allowed to continue.

“Until governments commit to targets and genuine, evidence-based measures, Indigenous incarceration will continue to grow,” Mr Clark said.

View Media Release in Full