Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2009 Week 10 Hansard (Thursday, 27 August 2009) . . Page.. 3832 ..
to commence a review of the role and function of the community reference group with a view to making it more consultative and reflect the concepts of through-care. Minister, can you please provide the Assembly with an update on the progress that has been made on the revision of the community reference group.
MR HARGREAVES: I thank Ms Bresnan for the question. The community reference group—the original one—was charged with assisting in the process of getting the prison ready to receive people from New South Wales. It had two characteristics which needed a review. The first one was that it had 26 members on it, and as a forum that was just too cumbersome. The second one was that it was a representative group, representing various agencies or non-government organisations, lobby groups and people who have concerns with matters about corrections. I do not wish that to sound negative at all, because there is a role to be played by those people.
After having looked at it, I took the view that, first, it was too cumbersome and we needed to come up with another way of involving the community along the way. The essential element of restorative justice going forward is the embracement of the community at large of a rehabilitated offender. Without that embracement, it is not going to work, period.
What we need to do is come up with community involvement on two levels. The first level is the philosophy, the restorative justice principles philosophy, and how that will be applied to not only the prison itself but also community corrections, which has a sort of transitional role to be played—and also to look at the involvement of the prison in the post-release stage.
Our responsibility for people who have gone to jail goes entirely to the time when the order has expired—not when they just get out of jail, but when the order has expired. We need to have a body of advice, if you like, which addresses the philosophy and the processes going forward. But also we need a body of advice day by day on how those programs are delivered to the people within the AMC—and their families, because their families are often victims as well, and without them being supported you do not get a successful outcome for the offenders when you try to rehabilitate them. I am encouraged by the role that the Outcare organisation in Western Australia, for example, plays in just that part of the restorative justice principle.
What I am leaning towards doing is preparing a document to go to the Chief Minister and to cabinet which outlines a new process to go forward. The AMC has been open for only about five or six months now. Many of the things that we are doing in there—in particular, the programs need bedding down, and we have not got to that stage yet either. We are talking about something which will have a 20-year effect, a generational effect. It is my intention to consider both of those two aspects and put together a proposal to put together two fora, one forum which will look at the overarching philosophies going forward—and whether or not the AMC is actually meeting it; that is the main point—and the other one with the day-to-day stuff.
To give you a time line on that, I asked for a paper from Corrective Services two weeks ago. They are still in the process of delivering it to me. From the last time I spoke to them, I am expecting it within a week. Then I will put together a paper to go to the Chief Minister for his consideration for it to be a cabinet submission and to be agreed by government as a government policy direction. That is where we are at.