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Media Release: NSW makes smart investment in Aboriginal justice initiatives

Justice Reform Initiative Media Release, 18 July 2022

The Justice Reform Initiative today welcomed the NSW Government’s announcement of an additional $20 million for initiatives to help reduce the overrepresentation of Aboriginal people in the criminal justice system.

Dr Mindy Sotiri, executive director of the Justice Reform Initiative, said it was well established that evidence-based alternatives to the traditional criminal justice system delivered strong results in terms of building safer communities.

“Evaluations have shown that specialist measures such as the Koori Court have a valuable role to play, with clear benefits in terms of reducing the overrepresentation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in our prisons,” Dr Sotiri said.

“We’re excited to see the NSW government showing policy leadership and investing in evidence-based approaches that will reduce reimprisonment rates, helping communities and people who are brought into contact with the criminal justice system have a better chance for a stronger future.

“Putting more people in prison does not make communities safer – the more time someone spends in prison, the more likely it is that they will return to prison. Specialist courts, which also include drug courts, allow for a more considered and thoughtful sentencing approach – giving courts greater flexibility to consider the circumstances and best approach for individuals.”

The NSW Government’s announcement includes $4.2 million to expand the Local Court’s circle sentencing program and $5.8 million to expand the Youth Koori Court from Parramatta and Surry Hills to Dubbo, with more funding for Aboriginal Legal Services, Legal Aid NSW and a specialist children’s magistrate to oversee the Youth Koori Courts. A further $9.8 million will go towards new justice reinvestment pilots, aimed at diverting people away from the criminal justice system

“We would like to see this kind of leadership taken more broadly across the criminal justice system,” Dr Sotiri said.  “We need to follow the evidence, scale up and elevate programs and policies that actually work to reduce reincarceration and address the drivers of crime.”

The Justice Reform Initiative is a multi-partisan alliance supported by more than 100 of our most eminent Australians, including two former Governors-General, former Members of Parliament from all sides of politics, academics, respected Aboriginal leaders, senior former judges, including High Court judges, and others who have added their voices to end Australia’s dangerously high reliance on jails. 

The initiative is calling for governments around Australia to move away from an entrenched reliance on incarceration as the mainstay of the criminal justice system and adopt an evidence-based approach to deliver better results for taxpayers, communities and people in the criminal justice system.

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The Initiative respectfully acknowledges and supports the current and longstanding efforts of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to reduce the numbers of Indigenous people incarcerated in Australia and, importantly, the leadership role which Indigenous-led organisations continue to play on this issue. We also acknowledge the work of many other individuals and organisations seeking change, such as those focused on the rate of imprisonment for women, people with mental health issues, people with disability and others.

Media contact: Pia Akerman 0412 346 746

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