AJA4 will be implemented and formalised through regional and agency action plans which will be regularly revised. The first plans were developed in 2018.
Signatories to the agreement
The signatories to AJA4 are the:
- Victorian Attorney-General
- Chairpersons of all Regional Aboriginal Justice Advisory Committees
- President of the Victorian Aboriginal Education Association Inc
- Chairperson of the Victorian Aboriginal Justice Advisory Committee
- Ministers for Aboriginal Affairs, Police, Corrections, and Family and Children
- Chief Executive Officer of Djirra
- Acting Chief Executive Officer of the Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation
- Aboriginal Community Justice Panel
- Indigenous Family Violence Partnership Forum representative
- Chief Executive Officer of Aboriginal Housing Victoria
- Chief Executive Officer of the Victorian Aboriginal Child Care Agency
- Chief Executive Officer of the Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service
- Koori Independent Prison Visitor
- Executive Officer Koorie Youth Council
AJA4's key challenge is the overrepresentation of Aboriginal people in the criminal justice system. AJA4 gives an overview of the present statistics around Aboriginal men, women, youth and recidivism rates in relation to the criminal justice system.
AJA4 states that '[a]lthough the numbers and rates of Aboriginal young people and adults involved in the criminal justice system in Victoria are lower than most other Australian jurisdictions and national figures, they are high when compared to the non-Aboriginal population and are increasing' (Burra Lotjpa Dunguludja, 2018, 14).
AJA4 aligns with the Victorian Aboriginal Affairs Framework. This framework recognises that contemporary social and economic circumstances lead to criminal involvement. It also notes that these circumstances are structural, and inextricably linked to Aboriginal experiences of European colonisation.
With overrepresentation and systemic disadvantage as its foundational challenges, AJA4 focuses on increasing self-determination for the Aboriginal community.
Self-determination is the central focus of AJA4: '[e]mbedding self-determination in the core business of justice agencies requires change in order to transfer power, decision-making and resources to the Aboriginal community. Taking the first steps toward transitioning to greater Aboriginal authority is a crucial aim of this Agreement' (Burra Lotjpa Dunguludja, 2018, 13).
In AJA4, self-determination is defined as the aspiration of the Aboriginal community to:
- Determine goals and aspirations for the Victorian criminal justice system as it applies to Aboriginal people.
- Set the direction for government policy and programs as they apply to Aboriginal people's interactions with the criminal justice system.
- Hold the government to account against benchmarks set by the Aboriginal community.
- Establish justice institutions to exercise self-determination.
Evaluation of AJA3
An evaluation of Phase 3 of the AJA (AJA3) found that successful AJA initiatives are built on:
- Community ownership of initiatives.
- A supported and resourced Aboriginal workforce.
- Strong local leadership.
- An integrated approach to culture.
- Joined-up and collaborative working.
- Addressing issues holistically.
Taking the above evaluation of AJA3 into consideration, the guiding principles for all work done under AJA4 are to:
- Prioritise self-determination.
- Support cultural strengthening.
- Be strength-based.
- Be trauma-informed.
- Be restorative.
- Use therapeutic approaches.
- Respond to context.
- Be holistic.
- Protect cultural rights.
- Address unconscious bias.
The outcomes framework for AJA4 has four major 'domains'. These are broad areas in which outcomes need to be achieved to reduce the overrepresentation of Aboriginal people in the criminal justice system. The domains AJA4 seeks to address are:
- Strong and safe Aboriginal families and communities.
- Fewer Aboriginal people in the criminal justice system.
- A more effective criminal justice system with greater Aboriginal control.
- Greater self-determination in the justice sector.
Each domain then has a number of goals considered achievable within AJA's implementation period. Goals are then broken down into desired outcomes. AJA4 then lists:
- strategies to achieve the outcomes,
- existing initiatives,
- new opportunities, and
- future possibilities.
'New opportunities' are planned activities. The new opportunities are to be implemented over five years, from 2018 onwards. Key examples include:
- Increase the number of Aboriginal staff working in VCAT and further promote Aboriginal engagement with VCAT across the community.
- Develop and trial a Specialist Koori Family Violence Court Model drawing on best practice and current problem-solving court principles.
- Research the impact of the 2017-18 bail reforms on Aboriginal accused.
- Develop legislation that requires Aboriginal organisations to be notified when an Aboriginal person is taken into custody.
- Develop a residential bail support and therapeutic program for Aboriginal young people that builds upon the Baroona Healing Place model.
- Deliver the Time to Work Employment Service to Aboriginal people in prison to provide the support they need to find employment and reintegrate into the community upon their release from prison.
- Expand Koori Courts to additional locations across three jurisdictions: County Court, Magistrates’ Court and the Children’s Court.
- Mandate Aboriginal Cultural Awareness Training for all Bail Justices.
- Review grants processes, including how to improve sustainability and support for community agencies to monitor, track and evaluate their own programs.
- Establish Aboriginal governance structures for AJA program evaluations to ensure they reflect Aboriginal values and measures of success.
- Fund additional capacity to support the Aboriginal Justice Caucus to increase their participation in government processes, policy and program design.