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Victorian Aboriginal Justice Agreement: Phase 3

Sub Category:Framework Agreement | Indigenous Partnership
State/Country:Victoria, Australia
Subject Matter:Law - Policy and Justice
Summary Information:

The Victorian Aboriginal Justice Agreement: Phase 3 (AJA3) was published in March 2013 and implemented between 2013-2018.

AJA3 was a recommitment to, and extension of, the work done under the first two phases of the Victorian Aboriginal Justice Agreement (AJA).

The AJA is an agreement between the Victorian Government and the Victorian Aboriginal Community developed in response to recommendations made by the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody. All phases of the AJA have the overarching aim of improving Koori outcomes regarding interactions with the criminal justice system. The AJAs do this by fostering collaboration between the Victorian Government and the Victorian Aboriginal community on research, initiatives, programs, plans and services.

The primary focus of AJA3 was improving justice outcomes by building stronger families and safer communities.

Detailed Information:

Negotiations and implementation

AJA3 was developed through the Aboriginal Justice Forum (AJF) which emphasises a strong collaborative approach. 

The signatories and partners to the agreement were the Victorian Government, the AJF, the Koori Caucus (now called the Aboriginal Justice Caucus), the Regional Aboriginal Justice Advisory Committee (RAJAC) network, the Local Aboriginal Justice Action Committee network, the Koori Justice Unit and the Department of Justice.

The framework, action plan, strategies and initiatives laid out in AJA3 were implemented through Koori Action Plans and Regional Justice Plans by leading business agencies and RAJACs. Many aspects of the action plan also required the involvement of external agencies. 

Evaluation of AJA2

AJA3 included an external evaluation of the effectiveness of Phase 2 of the AJA (AJA2) and consolidated its successful initiatives and components.

The evaluation of AJA2 found that Koori overrepresentation in the criminal justice system was still increasing but would have increased further without AJA2. 

It also found that there had been positive outcomes against all objectives of AJA2. In particular, there had been a reduction in re-offending and youth contact with police and incarceration. However, the evaluation concluded that more was required to meet AJA2's objectives more effectively. 

Challenges for AJA3

New challenges for AJA3 were:

  • the increasing demand for existing programs and services due to population growth,
  • the nature of increasing violence and victimisation, and
  • the complex needs of offenders with mental health, alcohol, drug, and housing issues. 

AJA3 noted that these issues were particularly pressing for Koori women, a fast-growing prison population.

Policy changes and new sentencing reforms also posed new challenges for AJA3. 

Strategy and objectives 

AJA3 set out an overarching strategy which: 

  • Grew the partnership between the Victorian Government and the Koori community.
  • Recognised cultural identity and connection as factors that protect Koories against crime and violence.
  • Provided a strategic direction that maintained and extended activity across the justice system.
  • Reinforced a targeted approach to key drivers of crime, violence and Koori overrepresentation in the criminal justice system.
  • Included a monitoring and evaluation framework that strengthened governance and reporting.
  • Emphasised place-based approaches to improve the accessibility of the program and services.
  • Improved collaboration across government.

Building on the objectives in the previous two phases of the AJA, the objectives of AJA3 were to: 

  • Reduce the number of Koori youth coming into contact with the criminal justice system by promoting protective factors, including cultural identity and strength, and reducing risk factors for offending behaviour.
  • Increase the rate at which justice agencies successfully divert Koori offenders, particularly Koori women, from further contact with the justice system and strengthen community-based alternatives to imprisonment.
  • Reduce the rate at which Koories re-offend by changing environmental and behavioural factors that contribute to offending.
  • Reduce the adverse, and often intergenerational, impacts of violence and victimisation on Koori communities, families and individuals, particularly women.
  • Make mainstream and positive justice-related services more responsive and inclusive of the needs of Koories.
  • Build capacity in and enable Koori communities to improve local justice outcomes and increase community safety, through place-based approaches to crime and violence. 

AJA3 also sought to target underlying drivers of Koori criminal justice contact such as poor mental health; alcohol and drug misuse; poor education and employment outcomes; and unstable housing. AJA3 engaged with a number of government departments to address these broader issues. 

AJA3 worked in conjunction with the Victorian Aboriginal Affairs Framework 2013-2018. By 2031, this framework seeks to close the gap in relation to:

  • The rate of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people under youth justice supervision.
  • The rate of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people under adult justice supervision.
  • The proportion of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal prisoners returning to prison within two years of release.

AJA3 action plan

The action plan implemented the objectives of AJA3. Each objective was broken down into a few key strategies, which were then focussed into planned activities. Each activity had descriptions, related programs and future actions to be taken. An agency to work with was also attached to each planned activity.

A few examples of key planned activities include: 

  • Reduce risk factors for Koori youth contact with the justice system, including drug and alcohol use and mental health concerns.
  • Implement initiatives that divert Koori women from prison, and reduce numbers on remand.
  • Develop, implement and monitor culturally responsive frameworks to guide the rehabilitation of Koori offenders and prisoners.
  • Assist Koories to recover and maintain family links while in prison.
  • Assist Koories to prevent and respond to lateral violence.
  • Increase the number of Koories working in law.
  • Improve the communication of information to relevant parties in the event of a Koori death in custody, including relatives of the deceased person and the Aboriginal Funeral Service.
  • Develop localised place-based Koori Community Safety Plans.

Related Entries

  • Victorian Aboriginal Justice Agreement: Phase 2
  • Victorian Aboriginal Justice Agreement: Phase 1
  • Victorian Aboriginal Justice Agreement: Phase 4
  • Organisation
  • The Aboriginal Justice Advisory Forum
  • Regional Aboriginal Justice Advisory Committees
  • Aboriginal Justice Caucus
  • Department of Justice (Vic)
  • State of Victoria
  • Victorian Aboriginal Justice Advisory Committee
  • Koori Justice Unit
  • Local Aboriginal Justice Action Committees
  • Event
  • Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody

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