Northern Territory Council of Social Service

2020 NT Election Aboriginal Justice

Fully fund and deliver Stage 1 & 2 of the Aboriginal Justice Agreement in the next term, including establishing an alternate custody model and reintroducing community courts.

By all objective measures we have failed our First Nations people.

Aboriginal Territorians are overrepresented in the criminal justice system both as offenders and victims.

The repercussions of historical policies which include the forced removal of children from families and the failed NT Intervention (which undermined any principles agency or self-determination), combined with the fact that most Aboriginal Territorians live in remote or very remote communities with limited resources and infrastructure, have perpetuated this disadvantage. These have had far reaching consequences on intergenerational trauma, loss and grief.

In response, the NT Government is developing an Aboriginal Justice Agreement in partnership with Aboriginal communities.

The vision for the Aboriginal Justice Agreement is for ‘Aboriginal Territorians to live safe, fulfilling lives and to be treated fairly, respectfully and without discrimination and for Aboriginal offenders to have the opportunity to end their offending’.

Over the seven years of the Agreement, in 2 stages, the signatories aim to reduce offending and imprisonment rates of Aboriginal Territorians; engage and support Aboriginal leadership; and improve justice responses and services to Aboriginal Territorians.

“Nothing for us without us”

The evidence of a number of failed policy initiatives by various governments in past years has demonstrated that key to any success is genuine consultation and co-design principles.

The Agreement has set a standard for genuine community consultation.

We strongly support the Agreement and the principle that ‘improved justice outcomes for Aboriginal people will only be achieved if the NT Government works in partnership with Aboriginal people to implement the AJA and that Aboriginal leadership is pivotal’.

The success of the implementation depends heavily on funding and adequately resourcing the recommendations in the Agreement.

NTCOSS strongly advocates for NT Government to commit to adequately fund and resource the solutions, to address the national crisis of the continued unmet need of Aboriginal people.

NTCOSS supports the North Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency’s (NAAJA) proposal that the funding must outline a set of values and principles which should inform the establishment of an Aboriginal Justice Funding model.

These include a focus on culturally based capabilities and cultural competency in service provision; the recognition of wrap-around services to address the complexity of needs for Aboriginal people; funding allocations based on the legal need of Aboriginal people; the recognition of strengths based approaches of Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations (ACCOs); placed-based approaches to funding through Law and Justice Groups and ACCOs; flexibility and integrated delivery of services based on local requirements; and long term funding provision contracts of 5 years or 10 years.

For more information see Pathways to the Northern Territory Aboriginal Justice Agreement, a companion document to the draft Agreement that brings together the background information, consultation findings and evidence that informed the development of the Agreement.

NTCOSS calls on the NT Government to commit to an Anti-Racism strategy within the next term and to enact laws that criminalise racial vilification.

The Northern Territory is the only jurisdiction in Australia where no racial vilification legislation exists.

As highlighted by North Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency:

“Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory have expressed that they experience racism, discrimination and disrespect on a daily basis.” *

 The Australian Human Rights Commission has acknowledged that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are more vulnerable to discrimination.

The Northern Territory should enact legislation that criminalises and addresses racial vilification. We need to be guided by the WA model where they have strict liability offences for:

  • Conduct likely to incite racial animosity or racial hatred;
  • Possession of material that is likely to incite racial animosity or racial harassment and with intent to publish.

The Northern Territory Government needs to commit to an Anti-Racism Strategy. This includes public education campaigns, training across all government agencies, NGOs and the private sector.

* Telling it Like it Is: Aboriginal Perspectives on race and race relations.  Allison, Schawartz and Cuneen, May 2016 Larrakia Nation Aboriginal Corporation, University of Tasmania, University of Sydney