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Program 1.5: Indigenous Law and Justice

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Major achievements

Funding totalling $68.2 million was furnished to eight Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander legal services, assisting their work in providing an estimated 90,000 advices, 25,000 duty lawyer services and conducting 87,000 cases.

Native title

Institutional reforms

The department improved the efficiency of the native title system through better alignment and allocation of functions and a clearer focus on increasing the rate of claims resolution. Specifically, the reforms involved:

  • consolidating the corporate services and administration of the National Native Title Tribunal with the Federal Court of Australia
  • transferring responsibility and resourcing for native title claims mediation and claim related negotiation assistance to the Federal Court.

The reforms also involve reviewing expenditure and cost recovery relating to the Tribunal's discretionary functions. The discretionary functions review is anticipated to be finalised by the end of 2013.

These efficiencies will generate $19 million in savings over the next four years to be redirected to the Stronger Futures in the Northern Territory initiative.

Australian Law Reform Commission inquiry into native title

A public consultation on terms of reference for an Australian Law Reform Commission inquiry on native title was led by the department. The inquiry will investigate two specific areas of native title law, relating to connection requirements and the authorisation and joinder provisions, and consider what changes could be made to improve the operation of Commonwealth native title laws and legal frameworks.

Native title claims resolution

The status of applications and determinations in the native title system is continually examined by the department with a view to increasing the rate of claims resolution and easing system pressures. In the last decade, the number of applications has decreased by a third. Between 2010 and 2012, the number of claims resolved by consent determination increased nearly fourfold indicating recent reforms are facilitating speedier negotiated outcomes.

A significant emerging area of litigation is applications for compensation by native title holders under the Native Title Act 1993 for acts that impacted their rights and interests.

Indigenous Land Use Agreement Policy Principles

In November 2012, the Australian Government publicly released the Indigenous Land Use Agreement (ILUA) Policy Principles, a formal statement of Australian Government policy to guide Commonwealth Departments and agencies when negotiating ILUAs under the Native Title Act 1993.

Indigenous legal services

Indigenous Justice Program

The Indigenous Justice Program funds projects that seek to reduce contact of Indigenous Australians with the criminal justice system and improve community safety to help make communities safer by reducing offending, victimisation and incarceration of Indigenous people. In 2012–13, the department supported a number of justice-focused projects aimed at reducing recidivism and incarceration. Another central focus was the reduction of petrol sniffing and substance abuse by Indigenous youth in designated remote regions. Additionally, the department hosted a national forum on prisoner care.

The success of the Indigenous justice program and the projects it funds was recognised in 2012 when the North Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency's Indigenous Throughcare and Prisoner Support Service won an Australian Crime and Violence Prevention Award from the Australian Institute of Criminology.

Indigenous Legal Assistance and Policy Reform Program

The Indigenous Legal Assistance and Policy Reform (LAPR) Program provides funding to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services (ATSILS) to deliver high quality, culturally-sensitive legal assistance services. The majority of service outlets (88 per cent) are located in regional and remote areas. Outreach service delivery models are employed to ensure legal assistance services are available at court circuits and bush courts. Assistance is provided mainly in criminal matters (85 per cent) and, of the total services provided, approximately 40 per cent of clients are aged 24 and under.

Major achievements for 2012–13 include administering an additional $2.5 million for ATSILS to increase family law services to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families.

Family Violence Prevention Legal Services Program

The Family Violence Prevention Legal Services (FVPLS) Program provides culturally safe legal services and assistance to Indigenous victims/survivors of family violence or sexual assault with the objective of preventing, reducing and responding to incidents of family violence and sexual assault. Significant achievements during 2012–13 included:

  • supporting 14 service providers to deliver the program in 31 high-need geographic locations in rural and remote areas in all states and territories except Tasmania and the Australian Capital Territory
  • developing a new program design and evaluation framework focused on measurable outcomes, with the launch of a new three-yearly program cycle in 2014-15
  • assisting FVPLS providers by supporting the National FVPLS Forum.

Stronger Futures in the Northern Territory

The department has contributed to a number of law and order initiatives under the Stronger Futures in the Northern Territory initiative, including through the Community Night Patrols Program. In 2012–13, the department successfully managed the transition of the Community Night Patrols Program to the Stronger Futures in the Northern Territory National Partnership Agreement.

Evaluations and reviews

Community Engagement Police Officers Evaluation

The department and the Northern Territory Police jointly engaged Colmar Brunton Social Research to undertake an evaluation of the Community Engagement Police Officer trial in the Northern Territory. The final evaluation provides important positive findings on community-based policing models particularly in remote areas of the Northern Territory.

National Indigenous Law and Justice Framework Evaluations

The aim of this initiative is to build the evidence base about what works to tackle crime and justice issues in Indigenous communities. A total of 26 programs nominated by the states and territories as examples of best practice were divided into five evaluation projects and assessed against the Framework. Four of these evaluation projects were completed in 2012-13 and the fifth project is due for completion in October 2013.

Review of the Native Title Anthropologist Grants Program

An internal departmental review of the Native Title Anthropologist Grants Program was conducted to consider how funding allocated for anthropological initiatives should be administered in future years, including consideration of program objectives, efficiencies and value for money. The review resulted in targeted improvements to the program guidelines including encouraging multi-year grant applications and enhancing monitoring and evaluation requirements.

Review of the National Native Title Tribunal's discretionary functions

As part of broader institutional reforms to improve the efficiency of the native title system, the department has worked closely with the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, the Federal Court of Australia and the National Native Title Tribunal to evaluate the performance of the Tribunal's discretionary functions.

Performance results

Table 2.14: Performance results, Program 1.5
Key performance indicator
Results
Identifiable contribution to improving community and family safety of Indigenous Australians
Achieved

The department has contributed to improving community and family safety outcomes for Indigenous Australians by:
  • funding 14 Family Violence Prevention Legal Services to deliver legal assistance and support to prevent, reduce and respond to incidents of family violence and sexual assault
  • funding for the provision of Community Engagement Police Officers to be placed in eight remote communities in the Northern Territory
  • funding for 40 community safety and recidivism reduction projects through the Indigenous Justice Program
  • funding for Community and Night Patrols across 80 Indigenous Communities in the Northern Territory
  • funding for Aboriginal Interpreter Services in the Northern Territory
  • continuing to work with stakeholders on the Safe and Supportive Community building block under Closing the Gap.
Improved access to appropriate legal services for Indigenous Australians
Achieved

Grant payments to Family Violence Prevention Legal Services in various regional and remote areas enabled Indigenous community members to access culturally safe legal assistance and advice.

Grants made to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander legal services have helped improve access to legal assistance for Indigenous Australians. The Memorandum of Understanding with the Torres Strait Regional Authority has increased services to the Torres Strait.
Negotiation of Safe Communities Strategy successfully concluded with states and territories
Not achieved

Despite considerable efforts by the Australian Government to pursue the development of a national Safe Communities Strategy, it has not been possible to secure agreement to developing a Strategy with states and territories. The department and FaHCSIA are undertaking a catalogue of existing community safety activities throughout all jurisdictions to progress this work.

The department continues to work with states and territories through forums such as National Justice CEOs to improve justice outcomes for Indigenous Australians and in particular to build the evidence base about what works to reduce Indigenous offending and improve community safety outcomes.
The Australian Government and states and territories are engaged in agreed activities identified under the Safe Communities Strategy
Partially achieved

While a Strategy was not able to be agreed to, the department is working with states and territories to improve family and community safety through a range of initiatives including community night patrols, Family Violence Prevention Legal Services, and the Indigenous Justice Program.

 

Table 2.15: Administered items, Program 1.5
Administered items
Results
Payments under the Indigenous Justice Program
Achieved

Funds were provided for 40 projects including Petrol Sniffing Strategy projects, across four funding streams, namely prisoner through care, youth prevention and diversion, restorative justice and community patrols.
Budget Price:$12.598 million
Actual Price: $12.515 million
Payments for the provision of Family Violence Prevention Legal Services for Indigenous Australians
Achieved

Grant payments were made to 14 Family Violence Prevention Legal Service organisations.
Budget Price: $19.090 million
Actual Price: $19.082 million
Indigenous Legal Aid and Policy Reform Program
Achieved

Grant payments were made to eight Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander legal services. Additional one-off funding of $2.5 million was paid to improve family law services.
Budget Price: $68.518 million
Actual Price: $68.518 million
Payments for Indigenous interpreter services in the Northern Territory
Achieved

Funding provided to the Northern Territory Government for Indigenous Interpreter Services to Indigenous Australians.
Budget Price: $1.306 million
Actual Price: $1.306 million
Stronger Futures in the Northern Territory –— Community Safety and Justice measures
Achieved

Funding provided for community night patrols and supplementary legal assistance services as part of the Stronger Futures in the Northern Territory National Partnership Agreement.
Budget Price: $28.829 million
Actual Price: $28.818 million
Native title system
Achieved

Funding was provided to six recipients under the Native Title Anthropologist Grants Program. Recipients were: the Cairns Institute, James Cook University; ANU School of Archaeology and Anthropology; University of Adelaide School of Social Sciences; South West Aboriginal Land and Sea Council; Northern Land Council and Goldfields Land and Sea Council.
Budget Price: $0.54 million
Actual Price: $0.54 million

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