The Indigenous Justice Clearinghouse encourages the sharing of information about programs and projects that are having success to reduce Indigenous over-representation in the criminal justice system and keep communities safe.
This section lists some examples of Indigenous justice programs and projects that have been formally evaluated and found to be successful (‘good practice’), or which are showing indications of success (‘promising practice’), in Australia or New Zealand.
What is the Bugmy Bar Book?
Launched in 2019, the Bugmy Bar Book is a free, evidence-based resource hosted on the website of the NSW Public Defenders.
The project publishes accessible summaries of key research on the impacts of the experience of disadvantage and strengths-based rehabilitation. It provides objective research across several areas of disadvantage, to support both the application and decision-making processes, when subjective information is unable to be obtained.
The project is directed by a Committee comprised of representatives of key stakeholders in the criminal justice system (including the NSW Public Defenders, NSW Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, Aboriginal Legal Service (NSW/ACT) Limited and Legal Aid NSW), the judiciary (including the Supreme Court of NSW, District Court of NSW, Local Court of NSW, ACT Magistrates Court and NSW Judicial Commission), legal academics (including senior academics from UNSW, ANU and UTS) and members of the private legal profession. Although the project originated and is based in NSW, the resources are designed for use across all Australian jurisdictions and the committee engages with stakeholders Australia-wide.
Who is the Bugmy Bar Book For?
It aims to promote greater understanding of the impacts within the legal profession and judiciary, with the key function being to assist in the preparation and presentation of evidence to establish the application of the sentencing principles in Bugmy v The Queen (2013) 249 CLR 571.
The application of the materials in the Bugmy Bar Book can also be used in other contexts, including bail and mental health diversionary applications, various civil practice areas, coronial inquests and other inquisitorial jurisdictions.
Other work being supported within the Bugmy Bar Book Project
The project also seeks to promote greater understanding of the strength and significance of culture and community for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. In 2021, the project committee commissioned the expert report, Significance of Culture to Wellbeing, Healing & Rehabilitation (2021) by Indigenous psychologists, Vanessa Edwige and Dr Paul Gray, which has been cited in judgments of higher courts and in other expert reports.
In December 2021, the University of NSW received a grant from the Indigenous Justice Research Program, a partnership between the Australian Institute of Criminology, Indigenous Justice Clearinghouse and National Indigenous Australian’s Agency to complete an evaluation on the impact of the Bugmy Bar Book Resources over the first 3 years.
The study will focus on the strength, nature, ancillary dynamics and limitations of the impact of the use of Bugmy Bar Book Project resources in sentencing determinations. An evaluation of the use-to-date of Bugmy Bar Book Project Resources in sentencing will yield approximately 25-50 sentencing court determinations, collected and collated for the project. Interviews and focus groups will be undertaken with stakeholders involved in the use of Bugmy Bar Book, resulting in recommendations about how best the Bugmy Bar Book can be used.
A recent article published in the Law Society Journal by the Legal and Project Managers of the Bugmy Bar Book is also available here.
In 2011, the NSW Government and Aboriginal communities started a conversation which resulted in OCHRE, the community focused plan for Aboriginal affairs. Since then, Aboriginal Affairs has continued the conversation about the issues that matter to Aboriginal people – governance, strengthening language and culture and supporting young people to positively transition from school into further study, training or employment.
OCHRE has been developed around the core belief in fostering aspirations, identifying opportunities and promoting responsibility, and aims to support strong Aboriginal communities in which Aboriginal people actively influence and fully participate in social, economic and cultural life.
The implementation of the plan has helped to build trust in the NSW Government’s commitment to Aboriginal communities by supporting genuine and meaningful co-design, with a long-term commitment to pursue sustainable local outcomes.
This approach throughout the design and implementation of OCHRE led the McKell Institute in 2017 to conclude that while other jurisdictions have attempted to co-design, “OCHRE stands alone in its scale and ambition”.
Through its independent evaluation of OCHRE, the Social Policy Research Centre at the University of NSW concluded that “overall OCHRE has been remarkably successful” with “strong positive recognition in the Aboriginal communities of NSW”.
This evaluation has been ground breaking in that this Government has supported Aboriginal peoples to be at the centre of decision making – from setting the criteria to assess success, to determining whether or not the reports are published.
Like any evaluation, not only has it highlighted successes but outlined areas for improvement so that policy and practice can be strengthened. This policy started with a conversation; respectful implementation and evaluation continued that conversation. The NSW Government’s response to the evaluation will be no different, by ensuring the deep knowledge of Aboriginal people needed to truly transform the relationship between community and government, is the foundation to making OCHRE even stronger.
While OCHRE itself does not directly address matters relating to the criminal justice system, its approach has the intent of positive long term prevention, by focusing on education, employment, and Aboriginal governance, with critical investments in language, culture and healing.
The findings and recommendations from the evaluation of the implementation and early outcomes are provided on the Social Policy Research Centre, University of NSW’s website under the heading ‘Site Reports’. The reports are made available with the approval of the local Aboriginal communities involved and belong to the members of those communities.
Further information about OCHRE and the work of Aboriginal Affairs more generally can be found
Aboriginal community patrols are community-based services that operate a safe transport and outreach service for people who are on the streets late at night. They operate in many Australian jurisdictions and are referred to variously as night patrols, street patrols, community patrols, foot or bare-foot patrols, mobile assistance patrols or street beat programs.
The purposes of community patrols include to: minimise and/or prevent conflicts and anti-social behaviour; provide protection and safety to vulnerable people; prevent crime; improve co-operation between Indigenous people and relevant support agencies; and/ or provide diversion from potential contact with justice and criminal enforcement authorities. In some cases programs are targeted specifically at young people.
One of the first night patrols to be established was the Julalikari Night Patrol in Tennant Creek, Northern Territory. Set up in the mid-1980s, night patrols developed in the Northern Territory as a volunteer-led community response to anti-social behaviour and as a way of improving safety within Aboriginal communities.
By 2013 there were more than 150 community patrols, operating across most Australian jurisdictions. In 2014 the Australian Department of Attorney-General published a comprehensive report evaluating two different approaches to delivery of Community and Night patrol services for young people: the Safe Aboriginal Youth Patrol programs (SAYP) of NSW, and the Northbridge Policy project (NPP) sometimes also called the Young People in Northbridge project, in Perth, Western Australia.
For more information about Aboriginal community patrols see:
For more examples of Indigenous justice initiatives that are working to reduce Indigenous over-representation in prison and keep communities safe:
If you have an example of a program and project you would like the Clearinghouse to consider profiling on this site please let us know by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.