VALS has created a petition asking the Premier to fix Victoria’s broken bail laws.
In Victoria, the Aboriginal imprisonment rate has almost doubled in the last ten years, and about half of the prison population is on remand.
30 years ago, the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody handed down its report, which included recommendations to increase access to bail and only use prison “as a sanction of last resort”. Since then, the recommendations have been repeated in many reports, reviews, inquiries and forums, yet Victoria has failed to implement these recommendations and instead has gone backwards.
Victoria’s prisons are now filled with people who have not been found guilty of any offence and those who are unlikely to serve a prison sentence even if convicted.
Our children continue to be remanded for petty offending as they are subjected to the same bail test as an adult. By ignoring expert advice, the Victorian Government is tearing Aboriginal families apart and further traumatising Aboriginal communities. Aboriginal women are the fastest growing demographic in Victoria’s prisons. Many of them are victim-survivors of family violence. They need support, not a prison cell. Many of them are primary carers. Locking them up in prison before their day in court destroys families and communities.
During Reconciliation Week in 2021, VALS wrote an open letter calling for urgent reform. This letter was signed by over 50 Victorian, National and International Organisations. Soon after, almost 200 experts signed a petition.