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NATSILS echoes The United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child frustrations at having to repeat previous concerns and recommendations to the Australian Government while sharply criticising its performance in protecting the rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children.
18 June 2012
For immediate release
The Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service (VALS) has called on Attorney-General Nicola Roxon to refer the Stronger Futures and Social Security Legislation Amendment Bills to the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights.
With both Bills expected to pass through the Senate today, VALS CEO, Wayne Muir, is concerned that without the Committee’s application of human rights scrutiny to these Bills, the measures contained within them are destined to fail Government and the community.
“Today represents a missed opportunity for Government to display strong commitment to human rights in Australia. VALS has joined others in calling on the Attorney-General to utilise her powers of referral to the Committee. Those calls have gone unanswered,’ said Mr Muir.
In correspondence with the Attorney-General, Mr Muir has also noted the lack of evidence warranting the nation-wide rollout of income management.
“We are concerned that income management will exert significant control over people’s everyday lives. Given this intervention, a clear, comprehensive, independent and verifiable evidence base must exist in order to justify the passing and implementation of such policy. To date such evidence does not exist.
“Without this evidence, the rollout of income management to Greater Shepparton and other trial sites is unwarranted, unjustified and is imposed as a one-size-fits-all approach that does not act to address the underlying cause of vulnerability and disadvantage,” said Mr Muir.
VALS correspondence with the Attorney-General echoes the call of the regional representative for the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Matilda Bogner, who has also called for the Bills to be put before the Committee.
If passed, the Social Security Legislation Amendment Act will enable income management to apply in five trial sites as of 1 July 2012.
Louise Hicks – Acting Executive Officer Community Legal Education, Advocacy and Research Unit (CLEAR) Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service Co-operative Limited (VALS) T: 03 9418 5999 F: 03 9418 5900 [email protected]
26 March 2012
The Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service Co-operative Limited (VALS) welcomes the release of the Sentencing Advisory Council (the Council) report for the review of the Victorian adult parole system. VALS CEO, Wayne Muir, applauds the Council’s position that the Adult Parole Board should not be exempt from applying the rules of procedural fairness.
‘This report sends a clear message to Government that the time has come for the functions of the Adult Parole Board to be brought in line with contemporary standards of transparent and accountable decision-making. ‘While Victoria administers higher rates of parole than other Australian jurisdictions, ensuring procedural fairness will encourage increased positive participation of prisoners in parole proceedings. This is critical to the rehabilitation and reintegration of prisoners and is therefore in the best interest of community safety where the likelihood of reoffending is reduced,’ said Mr. Muir. VALS’ Executive Officer of Legal Practice, Jill Prior, considers the Council’s recommendations to be generally positive, however remains concerned about the substantial discretion of Community Correctional Services in making decisions about parole breaches, especially in cases where there is no further offending. ‘In the context of what we know about the risks inherent in taking an Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander person into custody, our clients and their families have justifiable concerns about the manner and circumstances in which they are taken into custody following a breach of parole. ‘When our clients breach parole there is no opportunity for them to seek advice or judicial oversight or review of the decision placing them back in prison. As long as breach decision-making procedures are for the most part determined by Community Correctional Services, transparent process and procedural safeguards will remain ineffective in protecting both parolee and community,’ said Ms Prior.
In their submission to the Council, VALS highlighted the Government’s obligations to provide procedural fairness in the parole system in light of its commitments under the National Indigenous Law and Justice Framework (NILJF) and the Victorian Aboriginal Justice Agreement (AJA). ‘The NILJF and the AJA signal the Government’s commitment to eliminating Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander disadvantage in law and justice and minimise over-representation in the justice system by improving the accessibility, utilisation and efficacy within justice systems. ‘The NILF expressly states that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have a right to procedural fairness and we look forward to the Government’s response to the Council’s report in this regard,’ said Mr Muir.
For more information please contact Louise Hicks, Community Legal Education, Advocacy and Research Unit, Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service on 03 9418 5999 or [email protected]