14 December 2021
It has been 200 days since VALS and over 50 other human rights, legal, and community organisations wrote to the Andrews Government about the need for urgent bail reform.
200 days later, the Andrews Government has remained committed to an uncompromising and harsh law and order approach that has a devastating impact on families and communities.
The Andrews Government created draconian new bail laws in 2017. The prison population has grown by 20% since the Government was first elected without improving community safety. Almost half of the people in Victoria’s prisons are on remand, meaning they have not been found guilty. Aboriginal women are the fastest growing demographic in Victoria’s prisons.
Greater access to bail was a key recommendation of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody.
The Andrews Government has an ambitious reform agenda for Aboriginal justice, with the Treaty process and Yoo-rrook Justice Commission under way. To ensure these processes lead to meaningful change, the Andrews Government must also stop the over-incarceration of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
Our consultations with the Government, as well as independent media reports, indicate that the Andrews Government has decided not to act on bail reform until after the 2022 election. The Government is putting votes first, rather than saving lives. This political decision demonstrates that the Government is out of touch with what Victorians want – a fair, just, equitable legal system that actually improves community safety.
We need urgent bail reform that reflects a commitment to rehabilitation and reintegration. This is a crisis that needs to be fixed immediately.
You can find out more about the need for urgent bail reform at www.vals.org.au/fix-victorias-bail-laws.
Quotes Attributable to Nerita Waight, CEO of VALS:
“When politicians make cynical political calculations and sacrifice Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people for votes, the message they send is that our lives, our families, our communities and our dignity do not matter.”
“Every day that we wait for Government action on bail reform in Victoria, more Aboriginal people are thrown into Victoria’s prisons for minor offending that would be more effectively addressed within community. This is a crisis.”
“If we don’t fix Victoria’s bail laws urgently, much of the Andrews Government’s reform agenda will be put at risk – including the Treaty process and the Yoo-rrook Justice Commission.”