The 2022 Victorian Election is an opportunity for all politicians and parties to commit to A Plan for Aboriginal Justice in Victoria. A plan that will give Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people a chance to breathe. A plan to rebuild the justice system so that it gives everyone a fair chance in life.

There have been three Aboriginal deaths in custody in Victoria in the last year. Deaths in custody occur after many failures in society and the criminal legal system. The next Victorian Government must take decisive action to end Aboriginal deaths in custody.

Today VALS is launching A Plan for Aboriginal Justice in Victoria. It is a clear and realistic plan to end the over-policing and overincarceration of our people. It is a plan that will allow Victoria to meet its commitments under the new Closing the Gap Agreement and Victoria’s Aboriginal Justice Agreement. It is a plan that will end the unsustainable growth in government spending on police and prisons, and ensure that money is invested in communities instead.

The key asks in our Plan are:

  • Building the Aboriginal legal services our people deserve
  • Bail reform
  • Raise the Age
  • Police Oversight and accountability
  • Independent detention oversight
  • No more prisons
  • A public health response to public intoxication
  • An Aboriginal Social Justice Commissioner
  • A future for our children

Our people deserve culturally safe services in their communities. Generalist services have failed to end the over-policing and overincarceration of our people. The next Victorian Government should ensure that VALS is fully funded to meet demand for our services, including the expansion of our local office network so we can be in all the communities we work for.

Prisons are inherently violent and corrupt places. They do not rehabilitate people, they only cause more harm. The next Victorian Government should commit to a zero prison population target. Increasing access to bail and raising the age of criminal responsibility will be an important start to move the prison population towards zero.

We need greater accountability in the criminal legal system. The next Victorian Government should implement a new police oversight system, independent detention oversight and an Aboriginal Social Justice Commissioner.

Our children deserve a better chance in life, but Victoria currently has the highest rate of Aboriginal children in out-of-home-care and the highest rate of Aboriginal children on care and protection orders. This contributes to the overrepresentation of our children in the criminal legal system. The next Victorian Government should ensure our children have access to the supports they need to have a better future through connection to culture, community, and Country.

The Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody recommended decriminalising public intoxication over 30 years ago. While the current Victorian Parliament passed legislation to decriminalise public intoxication, the legislation still has not come into effect  because the public health model for supporting people who are intoxicated in public has not yet been implemented. The next Victorian Government should ensure there are no further delays to the implementation of the public health model and that culturally safe services within the model have the resources they need.

Quotes Attributable to Nerita Waight, CEO of VALS

“Too many of our people are dying in custody. Each death has a ripple effect through our communities, creating a wave of grief and trauma that passes on through generations.”

“Our plan for Aboriginal justice in Victoria will lead to better outcomes for all Victorians. Tough-on-crime politics has not made our communities safer; it has caused a lot of harm and destroys lives, families, and communities.”.

“All Victorians will benefit from our plan. Victoria’s spending on prisons and police is unsustainable and has not delivered better outcomes for communities. The billions of dollars wasted on prisons and police should have been invested in providing secure housing, excellent healthcare and education, and work that pays the bills.”

“The Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service is almost 50 years old. We have always had a strong connection to our communities. We know Victoria’s legal system. Our plan is based on our connection to our people and our expertise. We hope all politicians will listen to us and commit to putting our plan into action.”

Download our plan here.