Social justice for Aboriginal Communities since its establishment in 1973, VALS has been a leader in advocating for social justice for Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander communities in Victoria. We remain committed to closing the “justice gap” and believe that self-determination for Aboriginal communities is at the core of achieving this goal.

We are committed to:

• Promoting the rights of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander peoples to
empowerment, identity and culture;

• Ensuring that Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander peoples enjoy their rights, are aware of their responsibilities under the law and have access to culturally appropriate advice, assistance and representation;

• Reducing the disproportionate involvement of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander peoples in the criminal justice system; and

• Promoting review and amendment of legislation, policies and other practices that discriminate against Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander peoples.


Our advocacy and law reform work includes:

• Strategic litigation;

• Evidence-based policy and law reform work, including making submissions;

• Research aimed at developing and testing new approaches within the legal system;

• Public advocacy through media and social media;

• Advocating directly to the Victorian and Commonwealth government;

• Joint advocacy with other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services (ATSILS), Aboriginal community-controlled organisations (ACCOs) and community legal centres;

Ensuring that the voices of Aboriginal communities are heard

We believe that our clients are the best placed to understand the disproportionate impacts of the legal system on Aboriginal communities and their voices and stories must be heard by key decision makers across Victoria.

As a community-controlled organisation, we provide a platform for the voices of our clients and for Aboriginal communities across Victoria. We believe that promoting these voices is the most effective way to achieve sustainable change.

Strategic advocacy priorities


14 April 2020 At VALS, we look for sustainable  responses to legal problems. This means we support
investigation and use of therapeutic and preventative approaches to reduce the interaction our clients and community have with the legal system.

In 2020-2021, we will focus on the following objectives:

1. Decriminalising the offence of public drunkenness and development of a holistic health-based response to public intoxication;

2. Amending the bail system to reduce the number of Aboriginal people held on remand;

3. Raising the age of criminal responsibility to 14 years;

4. Ensuring that the unique experiences and background of Aboriginal peoples are taken into account in sentencing decisions, including through Aboriginal Community Justice
Reports;

5. Development and implementation of a culturally safe and comprehensive scheme to redress the Victorian Stolen Generation;

6. Expansion of IBAC’s powers to enable independent and properly resources
investigations of serious police misconduct;

7. Development of a new Youth Justice Act and Strategy that will close the justice gap for Aboriginal children and young people in the youth justice system;

8. Improving welfare and outcomes for Victorian prisoners via implementation of OPCAT and creation of a culturally appropriate National Preventive Mechanism in Victoria.

9. Ensuring that Aboriginal children in residential homes are not unnecessarily and
disproportionality criminalised;

10. Strengthening compliance with the Aboriginal Child Placement Principle (ACPP);
Under our current 5-year strategic plan (2020-2025), we also seek to achieve the following:

• Better accountability mechanisms for the community housing sector;

• Investment in culturally appropriate residential bail accommodation and bail support for
Aboriginal peoples;

• Expansion of Koori Courts across Victoria in both locations and scope;

• Access to adequate, culturally safe and trauma informed mental health assessments and
services for Aboriginal people involved in the criminal justice system;

• Implementation of cultural reports, as a mechanism for taking into account connection to
culture, family, community and country, when considering the best interests of the child
under the Family Law Act;

• Protection of the rights of extended family members, particularly grandparents, in child
protection proceedings.

Contact

For further information about our strategic advocacy and law reform work, please contact our Senior Policy, Research and Advocacy Officer, Isabel Robinson on irobinson@vals.org.com