Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2021 Week 02 Hansard (Tuesday, 9 February 2021) . . Page.. 297 ..
As I have said, we need to address the broader issue of having too many of our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Canberrans in the justice system in the first place. This is not an issue that can be solved by focusing on one part of the justice system; it requires a whole-of-government approach and a review led by our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community. I also recognise that each part of our justice system works hard to address the challenge of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander incarceration. But we can and should do better.
I am supportive of this initiative, initiated by Minister Stephen-Smith and the former Attorney-General, and I am pleased that my colleague Minister Rattenbury is committed to leading this broader work and reporting back to the Assembly on progress in September. I will assist in any way I can. The over-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the criminal justice system is a challenge across Australia. We all need to work together, beyond partisan lines, to address this challenge. I am hopeful that the Attorney-General, through the review, can assist in identifying solutions.
MR RATTENBURY (Kurrajong—Attorney-General, Minister for Consumer Affairs, Minister for Gaming and Minister for Water, Energy and Emissions Reduction) (11.08): I welcome the opportunity to discuss these very important issues today. Much has already been said in debate about the over-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, both in the corrections system and in the justice system more broadly.
A number of statistics have been cited. I am always struck by the fact that in the ACT around 1.6 per cent of the population of the whole city is First Nations people, but they tend to be 22 to 25 per cent of the population in our jail at any one time. This is clearly a significant over-representation and one that we must seek to address—and one that I have been seeking to address in my various roles in this place.
We have a number of strategies already in place. Clearly, we need to continue to really focus on those areas. I think that the one thing that we can agree on is that this problem has built up over a sustained period of time and we cannot keep doing what we have always done. We need to make sure that we do not have just more reports but that we look at some of the existing reports and really focus on implementing recommendations that have come from some of those earlier reports. In many ways, we know a lot of the answers, but we need to really focus on action to get those done.
The ACT has put in place the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Agreement, which has a particular focus on justice. I think there are some strong and positive issues in there. The government has adopted an approach focused on justice reinvestment. This has been spoken about in the debate already. I think it is a very important approach, where we seek to invest the money at the front end of the system, rather than simply continuing to build larger and larger jails which will see more people end up incarcerated, and particularly more Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. The goal of reducing recidivism by 25 per cent by 2025, I think, will have a particularly proportionate impact on our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.