Community Is Everything Wins Update - working in coalition to create change in Aboriginal incarceration

Amnesty is a founding member of the Change the Record (CTR) coalition of organisations fighting for change regarding Aboriginal incarceration and family violence. In recent weeks we’ve had some great wins!

Closing the Gap

“We turned an important corner in December when an historic agreement was reached to include a coalition of peak bodies as equal partners in refreshing the Closing the Gap strategy.” See this great opinion piece by Pat Turner.

It was also fantastic to see Bill Shorten recognise the work of CTR in his Closing the Gap speech: “I speak of the fearless campaigners for justice at Change the Record.” CTR put out a media release here.

Justice Reinvestment

Amnesty is part of the Justice Reinvestment Network of Australia (JRNA) who have been working with CTR to pressure Governments to adopt a Justice Reinvestment framework.

This month the ACT Government announced their new program, ‘Build Communities Not Prisons’ which saw $14.5 million dollars earmarked for new prisons spent instead on programs to divert people from prison. Unfortunately the program is only for adults. You can read our release here.

Through CTR and JRNA a costed proposal for Justice Reinvestment nationally was developed. Labor have committed to three trial sites if elected – we are calling for a site in each state and territory. Promisingly, Bill Shorten’s Close The Gap speech said: “A Labor Government will make justice reinvestment a national priority, because youth detention and jail time for young people should be a rarity, not a rite-of-passage.”

Raising the Age

The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child is re-thinking the minimum age recommended to states parties in their new draft general comment – very exciting, the draft says 14! The Australian Government’s submission was disappointing, saying they didn’t think setting an age was appropriate. However, at the end of last year the Council of Attorneys General asked for a report on a national raise of the age from 10 years old. This is the first national leadership on this issue we’ve seen. Well done to all the activists that contributed to this win in 2018.  Together in 2019, we’ll keep pushing for this at the state, territory, national and international level.

Justice targets in WA

Great news coming out of WA last week with two new justice targets to

(1) reduce Aboriginal adults in prison by 23% by 2028-29; and

(2) by 2022-23, have no more than 50% of young offenders return to prison within 2 years of release. This was a great commitment by the WA Government to address Aboriginal incarceration and a testament to the great work of the Social Reinvestment WA Coalition, but it’s a shame there were no targets specifically for Aboriginal children or women – see our release.

Reconciliation Barometer

There were some great findings from Reconciliation Australia’s Barometer that: “Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and Australians in the general community, believe more must be done by government departments to close the gap in areas of disadvantage.” When it came to ‘justice’ this was supported by 59% in the general community and 63% of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people surveyed. This shows we are getting traction in changing the narrative.