Jesuit Social Services welcomes the opportunity to respond to the Australian Law Reform Commission Discussion Paper: Incarceration Rates of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples.

We believe the over-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the criminal justice system is a national disgrace. More than two decades ago, the report of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody was tabled in the Federal Parliament. It prompted cries of shame and promises to do better; however, little has improved and many areas have gone backwards.

As the Discussion Paper highlights, efforts to reduce the high incarceration rates of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people must seek to encompass healing and strengthen self-determination. Until these issues are addressed, the over-representation in the justice system is likely to continue.

This Inquiry provides another valuable opportunity to enact real change. If properly implemented it is our view that many of the proposals in the discussion paper would help make a tangible difference to the lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in, or at risk of entering, the justice system.

Our submission offers feedback on a number of the suggestions raised in the discussion paper that are relevant to our work, with a particular focus on the Northern Territory and Victoria, based on our grounded experience and advocacy in these two very different jurisdictions.