Justice reinvestment for Aboriginal young people revolutionary policy and campaign


Tom Calma pictured above, the ‘grandfather of Justice Reinvestment’ as the first to champion the concept in Australia, is co-presenting the Justice Reinvestment policy position to Government

Clever economic modelling may tip NSW Government’s thinking on how to deal with high rates of youth incarceration

 Backed by Adam Goodes, Mick Gooda, Michael  Kirby, Tom Calma, Mick Dodson, Ted Wilkes, Malcolm Fraser, Marie Bashir, Bob Debus, Nicholas Cowdery, and other prominent identities and organisations, the Justice Reinvestment for Aboriginal Young People Campaign is addressing the shameful over-representation of Aboriginal young people in custody.

It costs over $652 per day (or $237,980 annually) to imprison one young person.

Justice Reinvestment Campaign Champions Mick Gooda, Tom Calma, and Marcia Ella-Duncan are having a alndmak meeting with the NSW Attorney-General Greg Smith SC MP and the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs Victor Dominello MP on Wednesday 17 October (today) to present the NSW Government with a revolutionary new policy approach to Aboriginal overrepresentation in youth incarceration.

Mick Gooda, Social Justice Commissioner for the Human Rights Commission, is co-presenting the Justice Reinvestment policy position to Government tomorrow.

He says Justice Reinvestment is about taking dollars out of prisons and putting them back into communities. “When implemented, justice reinvestment programs benefit entire communities, not just Aboriginal young people.”

“What is required is a whole of government approach that ensures justice and human service agencies work toward that same goal.

This can be accomplished by adopting a policy of Justice Reinvestment,” says Mr Gooda.

Justice Reinvestment is about diverting funds away from prison into programs to address the causes of crime in communities.

Tom Calma, the ‘grandfather of Justice Reinvestment’ as the first to champion the concept in Australia, is co-presenting the Justice Reinvestment policy position to Government.

He says the best way to deal with crime is to prevent it. “Justice Reinvestment involves smarter spending not increasing spending,” says Mr Calma. “This means shifting spending away from detention to prevention.”

There are currently a number of NSW government initiatives relating to young people – including the Connected Communities strategy. Co-presenter Marcia Ella-Duncan, Chairperson of the La Perouse Local Aboriginal Lands Council, says these are positive developments. “In this context we have an opportunity to change the story of how corrections and the criminal justice system work in NSW,” says Ms Ella-Duncan. “By implementing a policy and framework of Justice Reinvestment, we can increase community safety while decreasing the costs to government of incarcerating people at the rate we’re currently doing.”

Sarah Hopkins, one of the initiators of the Justice Reinvestment for Aboriginal Young People Campaign and a senior solicitor with Aboriginal Legal Service (NSW/ACT), is also meeting with the Ministers on Wednesday.

She says it has been difficult as a lawyer to watch adults and then their children facing the same problems and ending up in prison. “It sets them up for a life inside and does nothing to break the cycle. Why do we need Justice Reinvestment in NSW?

If this overrepresentation is not addressed, NSW will lose an entire generation of Aboriginal Australians.”

Justice Reinvestment is a good investment, both socially and economically

The Justice Reinvestment policy presentation was methodically developed by a team of policy experts, academics, and practice technicians using an evidence base from overseas and in Australia.

It reviews overseas experiences where there is demonstrably massive decreases in incarceration rates and costs in communities. It then models the application of Justice Reinvestment within a hypothetical NSW community to demonstrate social and economic benefits.

“We think the economic modelling is the educative instrument we need to help tip this argument,” says Mr Gooda.

“At a fraction of the cost of putting one young person inside, a Justice Reinvestment framework holds that the same young person could be provided with access to mental health services, case workers, youth development programs, employment and training programs, or with rehabilitation programs in local communities.”

The Campaign team is asking the NSW Government to commit to trailing and evaluating justice reinvestment in an agreed number of metropolitan and regional communities.

“The population of Aboriginal young people in detention is an alarming 50%, while Aboriginal people in NSW make up just 2.2% of the total population.

“The trend is a continual increase in admissions and in terms of Aboriginal over-representation there is a real risk of the situation getting worse, and costs continually increasing.

“A framework of Justice Reinvestment for NSW will have exponential benefits not just on the bottom dollar, but also on community safety.”


Media Contact:             Emily Barker Human Rights Commission 0419 258 597

 Kate Finlayson Aboriginal Legal Service (NSW/ACT) 0418 254 237

Justice Reinvestment for Aboriginal Young People Campaign


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