Page 3118 - Week 09 - Thursday, 13 October 2022

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I think it is really important that we reflect on the items that are funded in the budget—new initiatives. Of course, there are a whole range of ongoing programs, but budgets do tend to be about the new things and that is simply where I intend to focus my comments tonight. The budget includes nearly $11.5 million over four years to deliver a range of programs and initiatives focused on addressing the over-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the ACT criminal justice system. The program combines new initiatives that are expected to make a real and immediate impact and the continuation of established programs that have been demonstrating positive results.

I make two observations before I go on. The first is that we do know that the rate of over-representation in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, as it is around the country, is too high in the ACT. It is a matter of national shame and we need to be focused on addressing this. The ACT government has set very ambitious commitments, but it is right that we have those ambitious commitments because having anything else is really not acceptable. This budget seeks to make those investments.

The other point I would make is that I am very pleased to see that there are programs being continually funded here where there have been pilots that have proven to be successful. We are determined to make sure that we keep investing in them. There is some, at times, frustration when pilot programs get up and get going and then, even if they go well, they do not necessarily go on to the next phase. I have been very clear in these areas that where a program works we should keep investing in it. If something is not working then we either need to change it or we need to accept that it is not working, stop funding it and think about what we can replace it with. I think that this approach is a good one.

The initiatives funded in this budget include the screening of detainees for cognitive disability; the expansion of the Galambany Circle Court; the re-establishment of the Community Friends program, as I was asked about earlier today in question time; continuing the On Country program; and a one-on-one intensive case management program for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander detainees, to reduce recidivism. Flexibility is also provided in the program for new initiatives to be introduced in the future, based on consultation with the Aboriginal and Torres Islander community. It goes to the point that I was making that if we do find that there are gaps then we need to be willing to try new things.

I am a firm believer that we should not be frightened of trying new things, because this is such a long-term and problematic area and we cannot keep doing it like we have been doing it. There will be things that are working. We definitely should keep doing those, but we need to have a degree of boldness in being willing to try new things. This particular initiative aligns with the government’s commitment to justice reinvestment, keeping people out of the criminal justice system and reducing the incarceration of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to match non-Indigenous incarceration rates and reduce recidivism in the ACT by 25 per cent by 2025.

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