Aboriginal Community Justice Reports Project: Improving sentencing outcomes and reducing overincarceration of Aboriginal people

Wednesday 10 March, 9am – 10.15am

VALS invites you to the launch of the Aboriginal Community Justice Reports Project, which aims to improve sentencing processes and outcomes for Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people in the County Court, and reduce the overincarceration of Aboriginal people.

In 2017, the Australian Law Reform Commission recommended that State and Territory Governments, in partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations, ‘develop and implement schemes that would facilitate the preparation of ‘Indigenous Experience Reports.’’ In 2018, the Victorian Government and the Aboriginal Justice Caucus committed to piloting Aboriginal Community Justice Reports over the five-year period of Burra Lotjpa Dunguludja: Victorian Aboriginal Justice Agreement Phase 4.

The Reports, modelled on Canada’s Gladue Reports, and adapted for the Victorian context, will include a more holistic account of individual circumstances, including as they relate to a person’s community, culture and strengths, as well as making recommendations regarding community-based options.

Join us for a panel of Australian and Canadian experts, who will discuss the background and benefits of these Reports, and how to participate in the Project.

Judge Lawson, Judge in Charge of the County Court Koori Court Division will give the opening address.

Panellist are:

  • Nerita Waight, CEO of VALS
  • Larissa Behrendt, Associate Dean (Indigenous Research) at the University of Technology Sydney
  • Lyne St-Louis, Founder and Director of Taiga Vision in Quebec, Canada
  • Jonathan Rudin, Program Director at Aboriginal Legal Services in Canada
  • Thalia Anthony, Professor of Law at the University of Technology Sydney

Andreea Lachsz, Senior Policy, Research and Advocacy Officer at VALS, will be the panel moderator.

The invitation to webinar can be viewed below:


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.