Media Release: Call for rethink on fine-default reforms

The Change the Record Coalition today welcomed a renewed discussion on reducing imprisonment for fine default, but called for all parties to rethink their proposed policy approach.

The Australian Labor Party yesterday released a policy proposal aimed at reducing imprisonment due to fine default through reform of the fine recovery process. The ALP policy proposes that the States and Territories are able to use the tax and social security system to recover unpaid fines through a Fine Enforcement Collection Scheme. This is similar to models that have previously been proposed by the Federal Coalition and WA Governments.

CTR Co-Chair Antoinette Braybrook said, “We are supportive of the principle of reforming the fine recovery process to reduce the unnecessary incarceration of our peoples – but we need to know more detail.”

“Our communities are more likely to experience disadvantage as a result of a number of factors including intergenerational trauma, family violence, homelessness, unemployment, disability, mental health issues or substance addiction”.

“We have significant concerns about the social security system being used to compulsorily enforce payment of fines by these vulnerable people” said Ms Braybrook.

The current ALP proposal does not outline how it will accommodate disadvantaged people who need assistance and support to address the underlying factors that have resulted in the inability to pay the fine.

Fellow Co-Chair Shane Duffy said, “To avoid pushing vulnerable people further into poverty, we recommend all parties commit to work with the States and Territories to implement Work and Development Order schemes, modelled on the effective NSW approach. Fine recovery schemes should as be used as a matter of last resort.”

“All parties should also undertake significant consultation with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community controlled organisations and the legal sector, to ensure unanticipated negative consequences are avoided, such as disproportionate impacts on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and other marginalised groups.”

“We call on all parties to commit to abolish fine-default imprisonment as soon as possible, and adopt policy approaches that will support, rather than punish, our most vulnerable people.”

“We stand ready to work in partnership with government to develop appropriate and effective reform options” said Mr Duffy.

The Change the Record Coalition recommends all governments:

  • Commit to abolish fine-default imprisonment as soon as possible;
  • Introduce Work and Development order schemes, modelled on the effective NSW approach;
  • Ensure the adequate provision of gender and culturally relevant early intervention and diversion programs, to address the current over-imprisonment of Aboriginal women and girls;
  • Establish a legislative presumption against arresting victims of domestic violence at time of police intervention for outstanding unrelated charges, such as fine default; and
  • Retract any plans to introduce a compulsory scheme whereby outstanding fines may be deducted from social security payments because such a scheme will further seriously disadvantage vulnerable Aboriginal people

 

View Media Release: https://changetherecord.org.au/blog/news/call-for-rethink-on-finedefault-reforms

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MEDIA RELEASE: Federal Labor commits to reversing cuts to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services

The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Service (QLD) Ltd (ATSILS) welcomes the news announced today by the Australian Labor Party that should they win government, they would reverse the 24 million dollar cuts announced by the Federal Government due to begin on July 1 this year.

Shane Duffy, CEO of ATSILS said “In Queensland Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people continue to be imprisoned at an unacceptable rate and continue to be over represented in the child protection system. The ongoing erosion of funding for culturally responsive frontline legal services has been a significant contributing factor to this issue.” “When the most vulnerable in the community don’t have access to justice or are unable to access adequate legal representation before the courts, they are more likely to end up in prison at far greater cost to the community and the tax payer. An economic value study by The Law Council of Australia showed that every dollar invested in legal assistance would result in an $18 dollar saving downstream to the community.”

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people constitute less than 4% of the state’s population however they account for nearly 30% of Queensland’s prison population and nearly 50% of the child protection system.

Mr. Duffy said, “This broken record of statistics obviously reflects the current need put on our services due to inadequate funding levels which in turn undermine our ability to come anywhere near meeting the growing demand.”

Shortsighted tough on crime approaches, coupled with the chronic underfunding of the legal assistance sector & ATSILS to the tune of 200 million dollars in figures released by the (Australian Productivity Commission), has been a recipe for disaster and has left Queensland grappling with a record prison population that is economically unsustainable.

“While we welcome this latest commitment by the Labor Party, we call on all parties to commit to the reversal of these cuts. Further, we encourage all parties to increase investment in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community controlled legal services such as ATSILS and Family Violence Prevention Legal Services, to better reflect need and the reality we are dealing with,” Mr Duffy said.

This call was echoed in yesterday’s landmark “Redfern Statement”, where the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Service in conjunction with a number of other peak bodies, and over 55 mainstream NonGovernment Organisations including the Law Council of Australia and the Australian Medical Association, called for action in addressing Indigenous disadvantage based on improved relationships with government.

Read Full Media Release Here:
http://bit.ly/1VPIMU1

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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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Murri Court Mackay

Murri Court has been reinstated in Mackay with the official launch taking place last Friday.

“Statewide Murri Court co-ordinator Renee Kyle said the court would convene fortnightly for youth defendants.”

“Mackay elder Veronica Ah-Wang was one of seven elders inducted into Murri Court at the ceremony.”

“A lot more of our Indigenous kids get into trouble, we just want to be there to help them and put them on the right track,” she said.

View Daily Mecury Article:
http://www.dailymercury.com.au/…/elders-to-help-ou…/3038907/

Murri Court aims to address the over-representation of our mob in the criminal justice system. It focuses on rehabilitation through intervention and diversion, engages community and builds trust between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and the justice system.

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MABO DAY

Eddie Koiki Mabo

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Eddie Koiki Mabo was a courageous man who took on the crown & over-turned more than two centuries of legal fiction, the concept of ‘terra nullius’. To end National Reconciliation Week we honour his legacy of truth & justice and advancement of human rights. He brought us a long way, but there is still a long way to go.

We are here & always have been.

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-06-03/eddie-mabo-hailed-hero-by-indigenous-community-leaders/7473788