Research briefs are designed to progress Indigenous evidence-based policy making by making research findings accessible to policy makers. The series of briefs will draw together knowledge in a particular area or will raise issues where further research is needed. The series of briefs encompass topics that are current Indigenous policy issues.
Judy Putt and Jessica Yamaguchi
This brief considers issues to do with implementation of policies and programs, and identifies strategies or frameworks that can be adopted to improve the implementation of Indigenous crime and justice policies and programs. It provides an overview of key polices and strategies being implemented in Australia that aim to address Indigenous crime and justice issues, and examines four specific key initiatives to highlight the kinds of issues encountered: the Northern Territory Emergency Response; night or community patrols; Aboriginal sentencing courts; and men’s behaviour change programs. The theoretical and practical factors are brought together in a framework which can be used to evaluate and increase successful implementation across a range of programs.
This brief highlights some current initiatives in operation in Australian courts which seek to make the court process more responsive to the needs of Indigenous participants, along with some examples from New Zealand and Canada. Further sources of support, for example Aboriginal legal and victim support services and judicial education, including judicial benchbooks, are also considered, along with issues around language and communication. While it is acknowledged that most of the initiatives described have not been formally evaluated, some initiatives have been identified as examples of good or promising practice which can provide lessons for policy makers.
Alcohol management plans and related alcohol reforms (pdf 532 kB)
Kristen Smith, Marcia Langton, Peter d’Abbs, Robin Room, Richard Chenhall & Alyson Brown
This brief provides an analysis of Alcohol Management Plans (AMPs); a relatively new instrument joining the extensive range of regulations relating to alcohol supply and consumption. AMPs vary in design and implementation across Australia, and include strategies designed to reduce harms resulting from alcohol misuse. The authors chart the background and development of these instruments in Australia, as well as providing a comparison to international alcohol supply and control reforms. The authors find that evaluations in the public domain are limited. These evaluations appear to indicate that where AMPs are locally driven and owned, there are stronger and more sustainable outcomes. There is a good evidence base for the individual components that make up an AMP. Success has been achieved through alcohol restrictions, and both harm and demand reduction strategies have an evidence base as targeted interventions. The authors conclude that as more AMPs are implemented across Australia, there is a greater need for further research to better understand the process of implementation and how communities can work together with governments to design, implement and evaluate AMPs.
Dr Judy Putt
This brief provides an overview of innovative and exemplary research approaches and practice undertaken with and by Indigenous communities that is relevant to crime and justice research. The brief covers research practice and context, ethical frameworks and review processes, practical constraints and challenges, and promising practice. Where appropriate, examples are drawn from other countries, most notably New Zealand and Canada.
Sentencing of Indigenous Women (pdf 511 kB)
Dr Lorana Bartels
Indigenous women remain overrepresented among defendants before courts and in prison populations, while being underrepresented on community corrections orders. Data and literature on the patterns and practices of sentencing of Indigenous women offenders in Australia are examined in this brief along with examples of custodial and non-custodial sentencing options and promising examples of programs seeking to address the specific needs of Indigenous women. Developments in Canada and New Zealand, where Indigenous women are likewise overrepresented in the criminal justice system, are also examined.
Place-Based Initiatives and Indigenous Justice (PDF 758kB)
Over the past decade, Australian governments have implemented a number of place-based initiatives in Indigenous communities, which attempt deep changes in the local operation of government agencies and their relationships with communities and each other.This brief considers the effectiveness of these initiatives.
Communities Working to Reduce Family Violence (PDF 767kB)
Kyllie Cripps and Megan Davis
This brief outlines some of the promising efforts to reduce Indigenous family violence in Australia and internationally, including both government and community initiatives, as well as support mechanisms and measures for victims.
This research brief examines literature from Australia, New Zealand, Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom and reports on the effectiveness of programs aimed at reducing violent reoffending.
Indigenous juveniles are over-represented at all stages of the criminal justice system, and their over-representation becomes more pronounced at the most severe end of the system (ie in detention). Recent figures show that Indigenous juveniles are 24 times as likely to be detained in a juvenile correctional facility as non-Indigenous juveniles (Richards & Lyneham 2010).
Indigenous over-representation is the most significant social justice and public policy issue for the Australian and New Zealand criminal justice systems. Closing the gap on Indigenous overrepresentation has been identified as a priority and promoted through the National Indigenous Law and Justice Framework and Reducing Offending by Māori Project (SCAG 2009; Yeboah 2000).
The social disadvantages faced by Indigenous people in Australia and New Zealand, across dimensions that include community safety and the justice system, have been well documented. The extent of Indigenous disadvantage and the complexities of overcoming it have led to the development of a range of indicators against which the effectiveness of efforts to reduce disadvantage can be measured. This paper aims to contribute to the further development of justice indicators by reporting on approaches used internationally.
Sentencing Indigenous offenders (PDF 956kB)
When sentencing Indigenous offenders, courts in Australia and New Zealand do their work in the knowledge that the rates of Indigenous imprisonment are much higher than the rates for the community as a whole. This brief seeks to provide an evidence base for the development of law and policy by highlighting some key issues concerning the sentencing of Indigenous offenders. It first outlines the statutory frameworks that are in place in Australia and New Zealand. Second, it discusses the development of common law principles relating to the sentencing of Indigenous offenders, focusing on the relevance of Indigenous status and Indigenous laws (often called customary law) and cultural practices. Finally, it reports on the results of statistical studies of sentencing of Indigenous offenders.
It is not a new observation that Indigenous people in Australia experience violence at a higher rate than the general population. The impact of violence on Indigenous people and their communities has been widely documented by government and non-government inquiries, reports and commentaries. As in all populations, some individuals, families and communities are more likely to be victims of violence than others. Identifying who is at risk, and the circumstances that increase those risks, is important for the implementation of targeted preventative strategies, such as night patrols and family counselling, and other services, including hospitals and child protection. This paper summarises the demographic and social factors associated with being a victim of violence.
Indigenous Sentencing Courts (PDF 483kB)
This brief focuses on Indigenous sentencing courts, which operate in all Australian states and territories except Tasmania. These courts have been established according to protocols and practices, and can be distinguished from more informal practices that occur in remote areas where judicial officers travel on circuit. The first court was established in Port Adelaide on 1 June 1999. Indigenous sentencing courts do not practise or adopt Indigenous customary laws. Rather, they use Australian criminal laws and procedures to sentence Indigenous offenders who have either pleaded guilty or been found guilty, but they allow Indigenous Elders and Respected Persons to participate in the process, thereby creating a more culturally appropriate forum for sentencing Indigenous offenders (Auty 2004).
Robyn Gilbert and Anna Wilson
The rate of imprisonment of Indigenous people in Australia and New Zealand continues to be unacceptably high. Indigenous people are more likely to return to prison than are non-Indigenous people. How can young Indigenous adults be assisted to make a successful transition from prison to the community? What public services and community supports have been shown to contribute to a successful transition?
This Brief examines whether programs designed to treat sex offenders in Australia and New Zealand are effective in reducing sexual recidivism. The review of the evaluation findings indicates that the vast majority of programs are effective in reducing sexual recidivism. Further evaluation work is needed in the Australian context including examination of the effectiveness of programs for Indigenous sex offenders.
Bail support in Australia (PDF 120kB)
This Brief examines programs that are designed to assist a person to successfully complete their bail period. From a review of the Australian and international literature, principles of best practice are presented and current bail support programs for adults and juveniles in Australia are outlined. It was found that there are very few Indigenous specific bail support programs.
Research on strong Indigenous communities (PDF 130kB)
The first brief examines strong Indigenous communities. This brief describes the variation in Indigenous crime rates among communities and describes what we know about safe communities that have low rates of assault and property violence. The Brief describes what Australian research is available and suggests further research in this area based on innovative international research.