The Victorian government has announced that Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service and Djirra (Family Violence Prevention and Legal Service) will each receive $877,000 to respond to coronavirus.
The funding forms part of an almost $30 million package in the Garden State – in conjunction with the federal government – for legal services across Victoria to respond to COVID-19.
As part of the government’s Building Works package, Aboriginal men’s and women’s services will receive $2 million for infrastructure upgrades, including at Ngarra?Jarranounith?Place’s men’s facility, Wulgunggo Ngalu Learning Place, Koori Women’s Place, the Frankston Gathering Place and Kirrip House in Melton.
The new funding was pledged last Friday, the same day Attorney-General Jill Hennessy and Minister for Corrections and Youth Justice Natalie Hutchins virtually attended the 56th Aboriginal Justice Forum (AJF) to discuss ways to reduce the over-representation of Aboriginal Victorians across the justice system.
The Aboriginal Justice Caucus, consisting of Aboriginal elders and leaders, is “leading the development of the first Aboriginal Youth Justice strategy, which will be informed by the work of the Koori Youth Justice Taskforce, led by the Commissioner for Aboriginal Children and Young People in partnership with Youth Justice”.
The Victorian government, Ms Hennessy said in a statement, has also committed to abolishing the offence of public drunkenness and establishing a spent convictions scheme, following advocacy from the Aboriginal community calling for these reforms.
“We are working with Aboriginal communities to listen, support and deliver what is needed – this forum, with the funding we’ve announced today, is crucial to reducing [over-representation] across the justice system,” she said.
Ms Hutchins added: “We need to do more to address high rates of incarceration for Aboriginal young people, that’s why we’re developing a dedicated Aboriginal Youth Justice strategy that is led by Aboriginal Victorians.”
Elsewhere, Minister for Aboriginal Affairs Gabrielle Williams said: “Our focus continues to be on listening to Aboriginal Victorians and taking an approach that is focused on self-determination – we know we need to do better and that we can only achieve that through forums like this one.”
Source: Australia Lawyers Weekly