National agreement on closing the gap an historic step
The Law Society of NSW has welcomed the inclusion of targets in the new National Agreement on Closing the Gap to reduce the disproportionate rate of Indigenous people in the criminal justice system and reduce the number of Indigenous children in care by 2031.
The new National Agreement on Closing the Gap came into effect today, upon signature by the First Ministers of all Australian Governments, the Lead convenor of the Coalition of Peaks, and the President of the Australian Local Government Association.
Richard Harvey, President of the Law Society, said the Law Society has long advocated for a nationally coordinated approach that works with Indigenous Australians in deciding how policies and targets are developed and delivered, particularly in relation to the over-representation of Indigenous people in the justice system.
The National Agreement on Closing the Gap has 16 national socio-economic targets that will track progress in improving life outcomes. The targets include:
- By 2031, reduce the rate of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults held in incarceration by at least 15 percent
- By 2031, reduce the rate of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people (10-17 years) in detention by at least 30 per cent.
- By 2031, reduce the rate of over-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in out-ofhome care by 45 per cent.
- A significant and sustained reduction in violence and abuse against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and children towards zero.
“In NSW, Indigenous people make up approximately 2.9 per cent of the population but around 26.3 per cent of our adult prison population,” Mr Harvey said.
“There is even greater disparity in the juvenile justice system where Indigenous young people, who make up 4 per cent of the youth population in NSW, comprise nearly 50 per cent of the juvenile detention population.
“This disproportionate rate of Indigenous people in our state’s criminal justice system contributes significantly to the high mortality rate of our nation’s first people.
“Research also indicates that high rates of repeated short-term incarceration experienced by Aboriginal people have a multitude of negative health effects for Indigenous communities and the wider society.
“Furthermore, the incarceration of Indigenous adults also impacts on their families and communities, potentially placing Indigenous children at an increased risk of being placed in care and protection.
“The Law Society has consistently supported the provision of early intervention and diversionary programs that address the underlying cause of Indigenous incarceration and re-offending.
“The new National Agreement on Closing the Gap is an historic step in our nation’s commitment to work collectively across all jurisdictions and close the disparity between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.
“We look forward to analysing the full details of the new Agreement and then engaging with the NSW Government as soon as possible to develop state-based community-driven solutions to meet the new priorities and close the gap in life outcomes between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.
The National Agreement on Closing the Gap is built around four new Priority Reforms aimed at changing the way governments work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
- Strengthening and establishing formal partnerships and shared decision-making.
- Building the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community-controlled sector.
- Transforming government organisations so they work better for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
- Improving and sharing access to data and information to enable Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities to make informed decisions.
“While we absolutely support the four priority reforms, they must come with adequate resourcing and capacity building for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community-controlled sector, to ensure they are properly positioned to utilise their strengths,” Mr Harvey said.
All governments and the Coalition of Peaks will be accountable under the Agreement for implementing the reforms and achieving the targets.