The 30 year anniversary of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody (RCIADIC) falls on 15th April 2021.

Decades later, many of the Royal Commission’s recommendations have not yet been implemented. As we continue to wait, our people continue to die.

On the anniversary of RCIADIC, a paper has been released, ‘outlin[ing] concerns with the 2018 Deloitte Access Economics review of the implementation of the 339 recommendations of [RCIADIC]… argu[ing] that there is a risk that misinformation may influence policy and practice responses to First Nations deaths in custody, and opportunities to address the widespread problems in Indigenous public policy in Australia may be missed.’ You can read the paper here.

The Royal Commission in Aboriginal Deaths in Custody recommended increasing access to bail as a crucial measure to reduce preventable deaths in custody.

The Andrews Government has been restricting access to bail.

VALS and over 50 community, legal, and human rights organisations have asked the Andrews Government for urgent bail reform focused on reducing preventable deaths in custody.

Read the letter here.

In June 2021, IBAC published the Special report on corrections: IBAC Operations Rous, Caparra, Nisidia and Molara.

The report highlighted an increase in corruption and mistreatment in Victoria’s prisons linked to prison expansion and privatisation.

Read VALS’ media release calling on the Andrews Government to end its tough on crime agenda here.

Since the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody handed down its report, at least 470 Aboriginal and/or Torres Straight Islander people have died in custody. We don’t have accurate, up-to-date numbers because Governments are either not keeping track or not being transparent.

You can read the RCIADIC report here.

VALS and Djirra have jointly called for a Victorian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner to undertake an independent review into the implementation of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody recommendations. You can read our media release here.

As part of our Unlocking Victorian Justice webinar series, VALS hosted a panel of international experts on OPCAT – An opportunity to prevent the ill-treatment, torture and death of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in custody. You can watch the recording here.

You can find out more about how OPCAT can prevent Aboriginal deaths in custody by reading VALS’ factsheet here.

You can read our Joint open letter on ongoing and arbitrary use of 14 day quarantine in prisons here

We recommend that:

  • No person should ever be placed in solitary confinement. Instead of putting people at risk of being subjected to such a practice, the Victorian Government should be reducing the number of people being funnelled into prisons in the first place.
  • As a matter of priority, the Victorian Government must adopt a proportionate, human rights-compliant response to COVID-19 in prisons, which should include consideration of less restrictive measures that do not amount to cruel or degrading treatment and are consistent with robust health advice

VALS Justice Yarns Podcast -
RCIADIC 30th Anniversary chat with Senator Patrick Dodson.
VALS Justice Yarn Podcast –
RCIADIC 30th Anniversary chat with
Aunty Rosemary Roe

VALS Justice Yarn Podcast -
RCIADIC 30th Anniversary chat with Anyupa Butcher
VALS Justice Yarns Podcast –
RCIADIC 30th Anniversary chat with Lee-Anne Carter


** This page will be regularly updated with VALS research, policy and advocacy relating to RCIADIC and Aboriginal deaths in custody. If you have any queries, please contact Andreea Lachsz, Head of Policy, Communications and Strategy at alachsz@vals.org.au **

To determine eligibility VALS will:

  • enquire as to the Aboriginality of the client;
  • enquire as to perceived or actual conflict of interest;
  • enquire as to compliance with the Means Test;
  • consider the merit of the client’s matter.

The first time someone uses VALS they must provide proof of their Aboriginality using the Confirmation of Aboriginality Form. This form must be signed and sealed by the Officer Bearers of a recognised Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisation.

VALS must not decline to provide assistance to an eligible person, group or body on the grounds that the other party to the matter is an Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander person. In circumstances where the relationship between the parties to a case would result in a conflict of interest, that conflict must be managed in accordance with the Victorian Legal Practice requirements and Policy Direction 9 – “Managing Conflicts of Interest” – of the Attorney-General’s Department Policy Directions for the Delivery of Legal Aid Services to Indigenous Australians (2008).

VALS will not act if a conflict of interest exists. A conflict of interest may be an ‘actual’ conflict of interest or a ‘perceived’ conflict of interest. A conflict of interest can involve:

  • Clients who have different interests, such as VALS may have advised or acted for person “A” (old client) who has an interest that conflicts with person “B” (intended new client).
  • Clients and VALS, such as a VALS staff member or Board Member has an interest that conflicts with an intended new client. Conflicts involving client-provider relationships are:
    •  An owner, director, manager, employee, contractor or agent of VALS and/or;
    • An employee of the Department; and/or
    • A close relative (spouse, de facto, parent, sibling or child) of any of the above.

VALS provides assistance on a first in best dressed basis (i.e. provide direct assistance to the party who approaches VALS first). VALS will refer the other party to another legal service provider or “brief out” the client to a private lawyer (subject to the client meeting the requirements for brief outs). Where appropriate, VALS may act for one client and provide assistance by brief out to the other.

Means Test
Where a person seeks casework assistance, VALS must ensure that applicants satisfy the Means Testing provisions of the Policy Directions.

VALS must ensure that all applicants for legal casework assistance satisfy one or more of the following requirements:

  • Under 18 years of age;
  • Main source of income comes from Community Development Employment Projects; (CDEP) participant wages or Centrelink (or equivalent) benefits; or
  • Gross household income is under $52,000 per annum.

Note: Household income includes the income of your partner, spouse, relative including an adult child who you live with.

The Means Test will be administered in two parts:

Part A: Requires the completion of a small number of questions relating to the applicant’s personal circumstances and income level.

Part B: Is required where applicants do not satisfy the criteria in Part A. It requires more detail about the applicant’s income, assets, employment status and number of dependents.

Merit Test
Discretion will be used to determine if a particular case has merit.