Thursday, 28 August 2014
Blair Electorate: Five Bridges and the Ipswich Community Justice Group
) ( I speak today about the great work being undertaken by Five Bridges and the Ipswich Community Justice Group in relation to young Indigenous people in contact with the criminal justice system in my electorate of Blair and about the need for that work to continue and the need for the government to finally respond to the correspondence which I sent in February this year. There has been no response from the responsible minister, the Hon. Nigel Scullion, the Minister for Indigenous Affairs, in relation to the request for funding.
In Blair, Indigenous people are particularly vulnerable and overrepresented in the criminal justice system. Indigenous youths are 28 times more likely to be incarcerated than non-Indigenous youths. Indigenous young people are 15 times more likely to be incarcerated than non-Indigenous young people. I am a former chair of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on ATSIA, and I oversaw the inquiry into Indigenous youth and the criminal justice system. The Doing time—time for doing report made 40 recommendations, many of them taken up by the former federal Labor government. But that report, with its recommendations, seems to have been ignored by this government.
The Ipswich Community Justice Group came together in March 2013 through the tireless efforts of Uncle Rod Fuller, Auntie Carmel Bedford and, shortly after, Auntie Faye Carr. The group partnered with John Pearson consulting, which acts as their administrator. In early 2014, the group established an office in Limestone Street in Ipswich CBD, close to the Ipswich Magistrates Court. The group now provides legal support services to the Ipswich Indigenous community, assisting victims, offenders and their families at all stages of the legal process. The group provides assistance at court five days a week. An elder is always present in court and in the office to assist clients. The group assists in making appropriate written and oral cultural submissions to court. It fosters diversionary processes. It encourages offenders to engage with the Indigenous Sentencing List and the Queensland court system. It assists people when they leave prison or the system with which they are dealing.
This group runs a number of culturally appropriate programs which seek to reduce recidivism. A number of young people have really enjoyed the women's and men's yarning circles, a youth group and an accredited training and employment program to help offenders gain skills and employment. The Queensland Department of Justice and Attorney-General have provided $110,000 to the group, and the Queensland Attorney-General, Jarrod Bleijie, visited the group recently and said that this is a standout community justice group and one of the best in Queensland. Despite the terrific outcomes being achieved by this group, which is exceeding its KPIs under the Queensland government funding, the current federal coalition government refuses to provide any form of assistance. The group has developed strong working partnerships with government and community groups in Ipswich and the funding needs to be given. Sadly, this government seems to be ignoring the very reasonably requests.