This strategy document identifies key issues and makes targeted recommendations across criminal, civil and family law – with the objective of ensuring Aboriginal people are not left behind. It makes key recommendations in relation to policing, prisons and detention, as well as child protection, housing and infringements.
- The Government should, in the upcoming Budget, prioritise properly funding VALS’ culturally safe plan to help First Nations communities build back better from the pandemic. This entails funding Victorian Aboriginal Legal Services' (VALS) place-based model, which will reach regional and remote communities, enabling provision of a flexible, prevention-focused service that accounts for the unique needs of different Victorian communities and that facilitates a collaborative approach.
- VALS calls for further funding for our legal services, to meet the demands arising from court backlogs of criminal, civil law, and family law matters, that will now progress with the easing of restrictions.
- The Closing the Gap Agreement justice targets include reducing the rate of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults incarcerated by at least 15 per cent and reducing the rate of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people (10-17 years) in detention by at least 30 per cent by 2031. VALS calls on the Victorian Government to set more ambitious goals for itself than these minimum targets, to aim for parity being achieved in this generation’s lifetimes.
- Support parents to reunify with their children safely and quickly by providing more and better resourcing to expand availability and timely access to vital services such as family violence services, public housing, drug and alcohol services, children’s services, parenting support, mental health services.
- Governments at all levels must recognise that the growing homelessness problem of the past two decades calls for a comprehensive housing policy rethink. The extent of any surge in homelessness will depend on the public health situation, the timing and vitality of post-pandemic economic recovery, and on how quickly eviction bans and income-support measures are withdrawn.
Some of the recommendations have been previously put forward by VALS in their submission to the Public Accounts and Estimates Committee’s (PAEC) Inquiry into the Victorian Government’s response to COVID-19. These recommendations have either not been considered, accepted or properly implemented by the Government, and remain relevant during the COVID-19 recovery phase. Building Back Better also highlights key reforms that VALS has been advocating for over many years, made all the more urgent with the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on Aboriginal people, such as raising the age of criminal responsibility and legislative bail reform.