Background paper on Aboriginal people and justice services : plans, programs and delivery


This is one of a series of Background Papers that the Law Reform Commission of Western Australia has commissioned for the purposes of its reference on Aboriginal customary laws. The paper reviews a range of justice services provided by the Department of Justice (DOJ) in Western Australia, with a focus on programs, plans and initiatives aimed specifically at Aboriginal people. The paper discusses key policies, legislation and statistics (including trends in Aboriginal imprisonment rates) since the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody in 1991; presents a descriptive overview of specific programs, plans and initiatives in terms of their stated objectives, their availability on the ground, the extent of Aboriginal participation, and any evaluations that have been conducted as to their effectiveness; and provides a thematic review of the issues raised by the various initiatives described. Services discussed include court services, prison services, and community and juvenile justice services as they impact on Aboriginal people. The paper identifies positive aspects to the services discussed, as well as suggesting some areas of concern. Despite numerous documents deploring unacceptable levels of Aboriginal incarceration, the numbers have risen rapidly to previously unthinkable levels, far in excess of the situation in other Australian jurisdictions. However bright spots for the future include the generally increased focus on services to regional and remote areas, the cross border initiatives, and initiatives to expand the operations of Juvenile Justice Teams in more remote areas. Proposals to develop community courts are to be welcomed, but introduction of specialist Aboriginal courts in metropolitan and regional centres, akin to the Koori Court initiative in Victoria, should also be considered. In essence, the challenge that DOJ faces is to translate its official policies into practice in a range of areas.

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