Early intervention key to reducing

Indigenous youth incarceration rates in NSW

The Law Society of NSW has renewed its call for a dramatic and urgent whole of government response to reduce the number of Indigenous youth detained in the state's juvenile justice systems.

Law Society of NSW President, Elizabeth Espinosa, said Indigenous youth make up only 4 percent of the youth population in NSW, but 51 percent of the juvenile detention population.

Furthermore, three quarters of the Indigenous population have been cautioned by police, referred to a youth justice conference, or convicted of a criminal offence before they are 23 years old.

Improving Indigenous Justice outcomes is one of the five  key priorities outlined in the Law Society's State Election Platform.

Ms Espinosa's renewed call follows the release of the Australian Government's 2019 Closing the Gap Report which reveals that minimal progress has been made in reducing Indigenous incarceration rates and improving Indigenous justice outcomes.

"There is an urgent need to address the systemic challenges driving our state and nation's overwhelming rates of Indigenous incarceration," Ms Espinosa said.

"The NSW Law Society is calling for is a multi-prolonged early intervention approach, that recognises the connection between Indigenous entry into the juvenile justice system and Indigenous over representation in the care and protection system the numbers of young people who fall away from the education system.

This cannot happen without increased NSW government funding for indigenous-specific services that support an early intervention and holistic approach to care and protection issues."

The NSW Law Society has also identified the following key Indigenous Justice issues:

  • The need for training and education focusing on the unique issues that Indigenous young people face, for those employed in law enforcement, care and protection and education systems.
  • The need for policy development within the NSW Education Department that prioritises strategies aimed at keeping Indigenous young people engaged and welcome in our schools.
  • Increased funding for Indigenous specific services for young Indigenous people that recognise the importance of community led initiatives, such as the Youth Koori Court and Maranguka Justice Reinvestment program in Bourke.
  • The NSW Law Society is calling on all political parties in NSW to commit to and address these key Indigenous Justice priorities, as outlined in the Law Society's State Election Platform.