Today’s State Government announcement that measures will be implemented to address deaths in custody and the over-representation of Aboriginal peoples within the justice system has been welcomed by the Aboriginal Legal Service of WA (ALSWA).
“It’s been a long time coming but we’re optimistic that if properly resourced and committed to, the proposed reforms can play an important role in reducing the numbers of Aboriginal people within the justice system” said ALSWA CEO Dennis Eggington.
ALSWA said that while the Government had identified three key areas of focus (including the creation of safer custody environments; avoiding incarceration for low level offending, and supporting prevention and diversion initiatives that keep people out of the criminal justice system) a genuine commitment to fixing the relationship between the State and First Nations People was also a must.
“We’re not playing a game of Monopoly where if you get caught, you go straight to jail. More cautions, diversionary programs and a commitment to justice reinvestment need to be available for Aboriginal people in the first place. This would also involve WA Police repairing their relationship and policing practices with Aboriginal people, and WA abolishing mandatory sentencing laws which have a significant impact on the total number of Aboriginal people imprisoned in WA” said Mr. Eggington.
ALSWA urged the Justice Ministers Working Group to re-commit to, and implement outstanding recommendations from the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody (RCIADIC), the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs Inquiry Report “Doing Time – Time For Doing: Indigenous Youth in the Criminal Justice System” and the recently released Amnesty International Report “There Is Always A Brighter Future: Keeping Indigenous Kids In The Community and Out of Detention in Western Australia”, as these reports contained important recommendations which could be quickly implemented.
“As a WA citizen, I welcome any initiative which might lead to a better future for our people because as it currently stands, WA is locking up Aboriginal people at a higher rate than keeping them in school. ALSWA looks forward to the progress of the reforms and offers its support and expertise to the Working Group in implementing same” said Mr. Eggington.
A team of highly experienced and respected Community members from throughout WA have formed the newly elected Executive Committee of the Aboriginal Legal Service of WA (ALSWA).
Consisting of eight members, the Committee held their inaugural meeting in Perth this week to discuss the complex issues facing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples within the justice system and strategies for moving forward.
ALSWA CEO Dennis Eggington said the meeting was extremely productive and significant because it marked the Committee moving from sixteen members to eight. “This reduction marks our commitment to even better governance processes and because it is more cost effective, we will have more, much needed resources for our frontline services” said Mr. Eggington.
The Executive Committee will meet quarterly and their expertise and input will ensure that the legal needs of Community members are addressed statewide.
“Our Committee play a major role in guiding our operational procedures, organisational functions and policy direction, and because they each have been voted in by their local Community members, we can be assured that they will provide a strong voice for our people. We are working in challenging times, but it is extremely reassuring to work alongside such dedicated and committed people who share ALSWA’s vision for a strong future in continuing to play a vital and unique role in this state’s justice system” said Mr. Eggington.