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Justice reinvestment across Australia

Most Australian states and territories have taken a keen interest in justice reinvestment and commenced an exploration of it within their contexts. As discussed below, some states and territories have started to implement pilots and research programs to further investigate the viability of justice reinvestment.

In 2012, the Senate’s Legal and Constitutional Affairs References Committee held an inquiry into Justice Reinvestment to investigate drivers behind imprisonment, economic costs of imprisonment, the methodology of justice reinvestment and alternatives to detention. Its June 2013 final report, Value of a justice reinvestment approach to criminal justice in Australia, made the following key recommendations:

  • The Commonwealth should take a leading role in identifying data needed to implement justice reinvestment and commit to sharing data with justice reinvestment initiatives.
  • The Commonwealth should consider a justice reinvestment clearinghouse to compile, disseminate and promote research and program evaluations in all communities.
  • The Commonwealth should adopt a leadership role in support justice reinvestment implementation.
  • The Commonwealth should commit to a trial of justice reinvestment in conjunction with relative states and territories with at least one trial in a remote indigenous community.
  • Trials should be based on rigorous justice mapping and robust evaluation process with involvement of local communities.
  • The Commonwealth should provide funding for the trials.
  • There should be a central coordinating body responsible for identifying relevant data, developing options for initiatives, assisting with justice mapping and evaluating programs and savings.

Below is a summary of the approaches being taken by some states and territories towards justice reinvestment.

Justice Reinvestment projects

Bourke, New South Wales
The Maraguka Initiative in the remote New South Wales town of Bourke is one of the most significant justice reinvestment pilot programs in Australia.

Since 2012, Just Reinvest NSW has worked with the Bourke Aboriginal Community Working Party (BAWP) to address challenges facing young people in the community, particularly around offending and incarceration, while at the same time creating alternate pathways for young people.

Read more:
Just Reinvest NSW, Justice Reinvestment in Bourke Briefing Paper, August 2013
Bourke Justice Reinvestment, Maraguka and Justice Reinvestment, February 2015
Justice Reinvestment: Five Years On Report

More on the Bourke JR project here.
More on the broader Just Reinvest Campaign here.

Cowra, New South Wales
The Reducing incarceration using Justice Reinvestment exploratory case study being led by Dr Jill Guthrie from the National Centre for Indigenous studies at the Australian National University in the New South Wales regional town, Cowra, where 7 per cent of the population is Indigenous.

The research is being guided by a Research Reference Group which represents the Cowra Shire Council, Cowra Aboriginal Land Council, NSW Children’s Court, as well as key Australian and international academics.The research project focuses on engaging the Cowra community in conversation about what enables young people to lead meaningful lives in Cowra, and what the cost of prevention versus punitive responses are to criminal justice issues.

Katherine, Northern Territory
The North Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency (NAAJA) and NT Council of Social Service (NTCOSS) received funding from the NT Law Society to explore the potential of using a Justice Reinvestment framework to address Aboriginal incarceration in the Northern Territory, with the focus on young Aboriginal people in Katherine aged 10 to 17 years of age.  Katherine was selected as a suitable NT pilot site based primarily on the level of youth offending and disproportionate incarceration.

Read more:
Katherine – Report on Initial Community Consultations
More on the Katherine JR project and other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander specific case studies here.

South Australia – Ceduna, Port Augusta
The South Australian Attorney General’s department has committed to establishing Justice Reinvestment trials in two locations, one being in metropolitan Port Adelaide.

Separately, Australian Red Cross is facilitating engagement with Aboriginal communities in and around the remote town Ceduna on justice issues for Aboriginal people living in the area. It said in this report that the next phase involves developing a community-owned justice action plan to address the causes of crime in Ceduna. The initiative is linked to the South Australian Justice Reinvestment Working Party which is working with the SA Government on justice reinvestment. The engagement commenced in February 2015 and is funded by the Ian Potter Foundation and Collier Charitable Fund.

Australian Capital Territory
The 2014-15 ACT budget committed to a Justice Reinvestment Strategy, the development of a whole of government justice reinvestment approach aimed at reducing recidivism and diverting offenders and those at risk of becoming offenders from the justice system.

The ACT Government is working with the community to develop a shared understanding of justice reinvestment and a way forward to realise what is a longer term ambition of a justice reinvestment approach to the justice system.

The Justice Reinvestment Strategy’s terms of reference have recently been updated to include:

  • a literature review,
  • the establishment of an expert panel to advise on evaluations, and
  • the justice reinvestment trial to be developed in partnership with the community sector.”

Following a workshop organised by the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS), the Exploring the Feasibility of Justice Reinvestment in the Australian Capital Territory report was produced. The report considers the implementation of a justice reinvestment approach for the ACT, suggesting that it should take a whole-of-community approach.

Western Australia
There are currently no justice reinvestment projects operating in Western Australia, however you can read more about WA’s Social Reinvestment model here.

While Queensland is yet to adopt a justice reinvestment approach, some initial has been conducted into the cost-effectiveness of a Justice Reinvestment approach to Queensland’s youth justice services.

More on the research here.

Related projects

There are many other projects operating across Australia that do not necessarily have crime prevention or justice reform as a stated focus but are nonetheless making a difference in addressing underlying causes of crime and will inevitably contribute to a reduction in the number of young people coming into contact with the criminal justice system.

A snapshot of place-based activity promoting children’s wellbeing
This report by the Centre for Community Child Health at the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute and The Royal Children’s Hospital provides an overview of the policies and actors that are driving, doing and supporting place-based approaches to improve children’s outcomes. Over 12 months, the project investigated the Australian place-based landscape to understand how we can better promote children’s wellbeing through place-based initiatives. This publication is one of four key reports produced through the project, and specifically considers Australian child-focused place-based policies as well as initiatives and collaborations undertaken by government and key organisations.

The report includes two tables that provide an overview of this work and its promotion. Table 1 outlines the driving policies, leading practice in communities, contributing research and strategic coordination organisations and initiatives, while Table 2 lists key organisations which support planning, implementation and research into place-based approaches to improve children’s outcomes.

Communities That Care
Communities That Care (CTC) in Australia has been set up under a joint initiative of the Women’s and Children’s Health Network and the Rotary Club of Melbourne, with funding also provided by the Victorian Health Promotion Foundation (Vic Health) and a number of philanthropic organisations.

The links below provide background information, guidelines for implementation of CTC policies and programs, and how the CTC process can assist in implementing evidence-based prevention strategies and address challenges faced in implementing effective community-wide prevention services.

Read more:
Communities That Care – Introduction & Guide
Communities That Care Youth Survey Guide
Presentation: Implementing Effective Prevention in Australian Communities
Communities That Care Warrnambool
Communities that Care: Guide to Australian Prevention Strategies

Communities for Children
Introduced in 2004 (as part of the Stronger Families and Communities Strategy) Communities for Children (CfC) is Australia’s longest surviving nationally funded place-based initiative. It has gone through a series of iterations, surviving two changes of government. In 2008 CfC became part of the Family Support Program under a restructuring of community support programs to improve targeting and integration.

Communities for Children is a national place‐based program for children and families in 52 disadvantaged areas and is designed to enhance the development of children experiencing disadvantage.

Aimed now at 0–12 year olds, its objectives are to improve the health and well-being of families and the development of young children, paying special attention to:

  • supporting parents to care for their children before and after birth and throughout the early years
  • supporting families and parents to provide children with secure attachment, consistent discipline and quality environments that are stable, positive, stimulating, safe and secure
  • providing access to high-quality early learning opportunities in the years before school
  • providing early identification and support for children at risk of developmental and behavioural problems
  • assisting parents to stimulate and promote child development and learning from birth
  • supporting children and families to make a smooth transition to school
  • working with local schools to assist children and families with their ongoing engagement with school.

While CfC services are universal, priority is given to families with risk factors.

Opportunity Child
The national Opportunity Child initiative aims to reduce childhood vulnerability through a community based collaborative approach to the education and development of children. Opportunity Child emphasises a local approach and a move towards prevention and early intervention to improve child wellbeing. One of its goals is to build a $30 million capital fund that leverages contributions from community, philanthropy, corporate and government.

Opportunity Child is a collective of eight leading partner communities from across Australia, that are leaders in place-based research, service delivery and practice in early childhood, and philanthropy, and a wider learning network.

Read more:
Game Changer For Child Opportunity – A Bold New Approach
Opportunity Child Brochure

A workshop on Justice Reinvestment projects in Indigenous Communities
A 2015 workshop organised by the Human Rights Law Centre and the Australian Justice Reinvestment Project brought together key people involved in justice reinvestment projects to share their experiences and discuss the challenges they have faced. The workshop aimed to have a practical focus and to support communities in their practical implementation of justice reinvestment projects. This workshop report provides summaries of the key issues discussed and questions relating to community engagement, funding models and the role of the government. An important intention was to develop a strategy about how to best support existing and future initiatives.

Party policies

Australian Greens
The Greens’ Smarter, Safer, Stronger: Justice Reinvestment for Australia plan is to adopt a justice reinvestment approach as a more effective approach to criminal justice, to reduce the number of people in jail and save related costs to the community and individuals.  Part of the Greens’ plan is to invest in establishing a National Centre for Justice Reinvestment and a grants program.

Australian Labor Party
Labor’s Closing the Gap Justice Targets for Safer, Stronger Communities 2016 election policy document outlines the ALP’s plan to introduce justice targets and a justice reinvestment strategy. The policy outlines a national approach to work with the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) to introduce justice targets to reduce rates of Indigenous incarceration through the Closing the Gap framework. The ALP plans to introduce three new launch sites for justice reinvestment projects in a major city, regional town, and remote community; and will fund a long term study into the effects of the Justice Reinvestment project currently underway in Bourke.