The Australian Labor Party announce critical funding measures to address the disadvantage experienced by First Nations people in the justice system.
The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Service (QLD) Ltd (ATSILS) has welcomed the funding commitments announced today by The Australian Labor Party (ALP) in relation to addressing family violence and the disadvantage experienced by First Nations peoples in the justice system.
The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Service (QLD) LTD (ATSILS) commends the Palaszczuk Government for their unwavering commitment to advancing and protecting the rights of Queenslanders, especially the most vulnerable with the passing of Queensland Human Rights Bill today.
Chief Executive Officer of The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Service (QLD) LTD Shane Duffy said that “Queensland has raised the bar by setting a new standard in human rights that sees the most comprehensive and accessible human rights protections in the country now enshrined in legislation.”
“The legislative protection of human rights is the critical foundation we’ve needed to progress towards a fairer and more equitable Queensland.”
“We look forward to seeing the positive impact these detailed human rights protections will have on addressing elements in the cycle of disadvantage and discrimination that our clients, their families and other vulnerable groups in communities experience daily.”
“We especially welcome the much-needed protections related to the cultural rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and the economic, social and cultural rights to education and healthcare contained in the bill.”
The human rights legislation in Queensland has many firsts and improves on laws in Victoria through the establishment of a complaint mechanism that will be facilitated by the creation of the Queensland Human Rights Commission. The Commission will ensure the laws are more accessible to the most vulnerable who often do not have the financial capacity to enforce their human rights by way of legal representation and advocacy.
“We congratulate the Attorney General and Minster for Justice – Yvette D’Ath for seeing this complex legislation through Queensland Parliament and would like to pay tribute to the work of the Human Rights Act for Queensland campaign (HR4QLD) led by Aimee McVeigh who tirelessly lobbied the Queensland State Government and effectively engaged diverse sections of the community to support this important legislation,” Mr Duffy said.
ATSILS is proud to have been a part of the strong coalition of more than 40 community organisations that supported the HR4QLD campaign who were all united in their belief that protecting human rights in law would improve the lives of vulnerable Queenslanders.
We look forward to continuing the positive dialogue with the Palaszczuk Government and with key stakeholders and we hope to see stronger human rights protections adopted more broadly at a national level in the near future.
On behalf of my fellow Directors, the Chief Executive Officer and Staff, I am pleased to present . The Strategic Plan sets out a concise framework that highlights the four strategic objectives that focuses on our clients, our stakeholders, our people and our resources. The Plan provides a roadmap to ensure ATSILS can fulfil the organisation’s vision of continuing to lead in the delivery of innovative and professional legal services to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people throughout Queensland.
I would like to acknowledge the important influence that our communities and our stakeholders have had on the development of this plan. Understanding the needs of our communities is essential to continuously improving our delivery of legal services. Through an active community and sector engagement approach we continue to foster collaborative community and service partnerships that enhance our knowledge of local issues and respond to the diverse needs of our clients in the context of their communities.
A well-established governance and leadership platform has been crucial to setting an informed strategic direction that can effectively respond to the broad justice needs of the communities we service. Our board is reflective of the diversity of our communities across the state, this representation gives our communities a stronger voice that speaks directly through our leadership. We embrace ethical, accountable and transparent management and decision-making systems, policies, practices and procedures in all that we do and our board structure is built on a critical mix of skills and experience drawn from grass roots communities, non-government, government and the private sector.
This strong leadership platform sets our mission; however, it is our dedicated staff that work tirelessly day in day out to achieve it. Continuing to develop a highly skilled workforce committed to successfully achieving our strategic objectives and meeting the needs of clients is a core element of our strategic plan. We are extremely proud of the diverse 200+ strong workforce we have delivering our quality brand of legal services, community legal education, and early intervention and prevention services that uphold and advance the legal and human rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
I also acknowledge the importance and significance of our collaborative arrangements with other key stakeholders in the justice system particularly the assistance provided to us by the Legal Aid Queensland in terms of off-setting some of the very high costs associated with delivering crucial services in our State’s most remote regions.
I encourage our communities and relevant government and non-government partners to embrace this Plan and work with us on its successful implementation.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Service (QLD) Ltd.
The 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 firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 0439 561 775.
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ATSILS CEO Shane Duffy was invited to Canberra recently to attend A Special Gathering of prominent Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leaders asked to provide advice to Government on a refreshed ‘Closing The Gap’ agenda. The gathering coincided with the first Council of Australian Governments (COAG) meeting of 2018.
Shane was one of 64 State and Commonwealth delegates selected to come together to provide advice on future policy priorities, and how all governments can be held to account for driving change. A delegation from the Special Gathering then attended the COAG meeting to provide advice of the gathering directly to First Ministers.
The Special Gathering agreed the next phase of the Closing the Gap agenda must be guided by the principles of empowerment and self-determination as articulated in the 2008 Close the Gap Statement of Intent. The group demanded from government a community led, strength based strategy that enables us to move beyond surviving to thriving.
The Gathering agreed that existing targets should be retained and critically reviewed, and that the following areas are of highest importance for setting additional future targets as part of this refresh:
– Families, children and youth
– Justice, including youth justice
– Economic development
– Culture and language
– Eliminating racism and systemic discrimination
We call on governments to negotiate specific targets in these areas with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and our representative bodies.
Here is a link to the full statement from the group:
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.
In the work we do, we see the ongoing impacts of such policies and we are particularly mindful of the challenges faced by many of our people dealing with the effects of inter-generational trauma.
We will continue to push hard for reform in laws, policies and practices that discriminate and adversely impact on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and we call for more ACTION from all levels of government to assist the healing process in our communities.
Commemorating The Apology to Stolen Generations is an important part of history and is vital to the healing process, but the words and rhetoric must be backed up with more action.
It is a shameful indictment on policy makers that 10 years after the apology to the Stolen Generations, we’ve seen the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children removed from their families double. Community controlled and led solutions must be designed and implemented to address this devastating trajectory tearing apart communities.
Recommendations: Bringing them home: The ‘Stolen Children’ report (1997) – http://bit.ly/1XUM8Wv
Learn more about the Stolen Generations and the Healing journey at Healing Foundation