The Barwon South West Regional Aboriginal Justice Advisory Committee (RAJAC) acknowledges the traditional owners within the region and pays respects to elders both past and present.

With an Aboriginal population of 4,475, the Barwon South West region accounts for approximately 9% of Victoria’s total Aboriginal population. 

A RAJAC Executive Officer and Local Aboriginal Justice Action Committee (LAJAC) Project Officer work across the region’s nine Local Government Areas: Colac-Otway, Corangamite, Glenelg, Greater Geelong, Moyne, Queenscliff, Southern Grampians, Surf Coast and Warrnambool.  LAJACs are established in the Warrnambool, Geelong and Glenelg areas.   

There are three prisons located in the Barwon South West region: Barwon Prison, Marngoneet Correctional Centre and Karreenga Correctional Centre. A full suite of justice services are offered from the Warrnambool Justice Service Centre (External link) and Geelong Regional Office (External link).

 

Aboriginal Justice Forum visits Barwon South West for Community Forum

On 3 December 2019, representatives from the Victorian Aboriginal Justice Forum (AJF) (External link) visited Barwon South West for a Community Forum.

More than 40 local Aboriginal community members attended, taking advantage of the opportunity to seek real-time responses from AJF representatives.

The AJF committed to addressing the issues raised by community.

See responses to concerns raised by community regarding...

Police

Confirmation was sought that Victoria Police’s school-based traineeships would continue.

There are currently 20 state-wide school-based traineeships funded by the Victorian Government through the Jobs Victoria initiative. Nine of the 20 traineeships are allocated to Barwon South West. The traineeships have proven to be a great foundation for improving relationships and setting young Aboriginal people on a path to a career in the police force. The traineeships will continue as long as funding is available.   

Assurance was sought that Victoria Police would proactively support Framlingham residents.

Victoria Police met with Aboriginal community members from Framlingham in December 2019. Victoria Police reported that the meeting was a success, resulting in a number of agreed outcomes. Topics included body worn cameras, cultural training for police and the importance of culture, tribal boundaries and connection to the land for Aboriginal people. Victoria Police have committed to ensuring Framlingham residents feel adequately supported. 

Community expressed their frustration at the frequency of police searches on Aboriginal youth.

Victoria Police assured community members strict policies apply to police searches. The age of a person who can be searched without a guardian present is dependent on the risk to community safety. For example, police have the right to search a person, if they have reasonable grounds to believe they may be carrying illegal drugs, stolen goods or firearms, or posing a risk to the community. Before any search begins, a person has the right to ask police why they are being searched, to which police must respond. If a police officer searches a person, they must make a written record of the search. If a person is searched, they can ask for a copy of the record at the time or later. It is free if the record is requested within one year of the search.

Community members are strongly encouraged to alert local Police Command of any questionable searches. This can be done in person at a local police station or via telephone. If a member of the community would like to make a complaint, support is available through the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission (VEOHRC) (External link). VEOHRC works with community to resolve complaints through their free, fair and timely dispute resolution service.

Community expressed concerns that family violence incidents attended by Victoria Police will lead to children’s involvement with Child Protection.

Whether a referral is made to Child Protection is largely dependent on the nature of the violence committed and ultimately, what is in the child’s best interest. If a child is deemed to be in danger, police are legislated to inform Child Protection (DHHS) (External link). If a child is removed from their home, best efforts are made to place the child with Aboriginal family, extended family, or an Aboriginal carer. A child is placed with non-Aboriginal carers in the instance that all alternative options have been exhausted. Community members are encouraged to volunteer as carers. Child Protection (DHHS) encourages community to be in touch regarding any of their concerns.

Justice 

Community were disappointed by the lack of consultation on the temporary closure of Portland Magistrates Court.

Judicial Services are working to improve community engagement to ensure the voices and experiences of community are heard. A representative from Judicial Services said, "the refurbishments will result in improvements to the court's infrastructure and accessibility for its patrons including access ramps, handrails and external toilets". The refurbishment of the 176 year-old Portland Magistrates' Court commenced last month and is expected to conclude in June 2020. 

Community are keen to see the expansion of Koori Courts to other locations in the Barwon South West region.  

Koori Courts (External link) operate across a number of locations within Barwon South West, including, Portland, Geelong, Warrnambool and Hamilton. No further expansion is currently forecast. County Koori Court launched in Warrnambool in October 2019 and is expected to be established in Geelong by the end of 2020. 

Community highlighted the need for residential diversion facilities and/or programs in Barwon South West.

The Koori Justice Unit (within the Aboriginal Justice Group, Department of Justice and Community Safety) is pleased to be working with community on a feasibility study regarding the establishment of a residential women’s diversion model in Barwon South West. The study is currently in its early stages. Updates regarding its progress will be made available through the Barwon South West RAJAC.

Timely implementation of the recommendations of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody (RCIADIC) (External link).

The first Victorian Aboriginal Justice Agreement (External link) was developed in partnership between the Victorian Government and Aboriginal community to respond to recommendations from the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody. A 2018 review of Victoria’s progress in implementing the RCIADIC recommendations found that 13 had not been implemented in Victoria. Of these 13 recommendations, action is underway to address three of the recommendations including those relating to public drunkenness. A further three are considered outside of jurisdictional responsibilities and four are of limited relevance to the Victorian context and/or have not been raised by Aboriginal stakeholders as priorities. On 22 August, 2019 the Victorian Government announced its intention to abolish the crime of public drunkenness in favour of a health-based approach that will promote therapeutic and culturally safe pathways to assist alcohol-affected people in public places.

Community sought to understand how funding is provided to RAJACs.

Funding has been allocated across the nine RAJAC regions to develop initiatives that align with each of their RAJAC plans, with funding set to increase over time. Community members are welcome to provide the Barwon South West RAJAC with suggestions for potential projects - these can be made directly to the RAJAC.

Community sought answers on the vacant Geelong LAJAC Project Officer position.

Historically, Barwon South West has not been funded for a dedicated LAJAC Project Officer but were able to maintain this position for a period of 12 months through an internal redirection of funding. The region is currently exploring other options to ensure that the Barwon South West LAJAC network remains adequately supported.

Community are concerned friends and family with a Corrections Reference Number (CRN), or past-history, are excluded from prison visits.

Corrections Victoria’s policy states that for persons who are on bail requesting a visit, the nature of their offending and their relationship to the person they are visiting is taken into consideration by the prison’s General Manager. For example, co-offenders or drug traffickers may be less likely to be permitted to visit, given the risks, or a non-contact visit may be suggested as an alternative, until the matter is resolved.

For persons subject to a current Community Corrections Order (but not including people on Parole or CCO Imprisonment Orders), visits with people in prison should be permitted, unless the prison General Manager believes it may affect the good order and security of the prison or the rehabilitative prospects of either person.

In recognition of the importance of visits to persons in prison (External link), Corrections Victoria will always balance the security needs with human rights and ensure that the visitor with a CRN, Community Corrections Order, or someone reporting on bail, is afforded the opportunity to present their case, rather than simply be denied a visit.

In the event that a community member meets any of the above criteria, and are unclear about their visit rights, they can write directly to the General Manager of the prison they intend to visit, or to Corrections Victoria, c/o PO Box 123, or via email at corrections@justice.vic.gov.au (External link), or you can call Corrections Victoria (External link) on (03) 8684 6600.

If a visitor is at the prison and refused entry, it is the visitor’s right to request advice on the reason and whether they can have a non-contact visit rather than be refused entry, although sometimes, specific details may not be able to be provided. Visitors can also request to speak with the Officer in Charge of the prison. 

Education and Jobs

Community requested a status update on the vacant Koorie Education Coordinator role for Barwon South West (Wimmera South West).

Although the role has been advertised twice to date, it remains unfilled. Updates on future recruitment to this role will be communicated through the Barwon South West RAJAC.

Community sought an update on the recruitment status for the vacant Client Service Officer - Victorian Aboriginal Legal Services position.

Before the role is advertised, a service delivery review will be carried out to establish the demand within Barwon South West. The result of the review will inform where the position will be placed, to ensure service delivery needs in the region are met. It is expected that this vacancy will be filled by June, 2020. 

Environment, health and wellbeing

Community highlighted the need for greater investment in capital works for Aboriginal communities.

The Aboriginal Community Infrastructure Program is an important investment by the Victorian Government which enables Aboriginal organisations to build new community infrastructure or to repair, refurbish or expand existing community infrastructure to meet the emerging needs of Aboriginal Victorians.

Applications for funding through the program are assessed by a reference group led by Aboriginal Victoria against a set criteria. Through this process, Framlingham was identified as needing urgent work to its water pumps and corrective works are underway.

Community expressed concerns at the lack of opportunities for young people in Barwon South West to take part in Koorie Youth Council initiatives.

The Koorie Youth Council will arrange to meet with the Warrnambool community to discuss the establishment of a local youth council, in an effort to create local opportunities for Aboriginal young people.

Community want more access to cultural programs. 

The Aboriginal Justice Forum is working hard to accomplish the overarching goals of the Aboriginal Justice Agreement, to support Aboriginal people to maintain their connection to family, community, country and culture.

The Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission (VEOHRC) is focusing its efforts to embed respect for Aboriginal cultural rights across the Victorian Government. Additionally, the Department of Education and Training are working to embed culture in schools. Below are a number of positive initatives taking place across the state:

  • 18 kindergartens are delivering an Aboriginal language program.
  • 17 schools in Victoria are delivering an Aboriginal language program.
  • Cultural training has been delivered to more than 1000 schools around Victoria.

An evaluation is planned to determine the impact of these programs.

The Aboriginal Justice Forum

The AJF is made up of senior representatives from Victoria’s Aboriginal communities and government portfolios to oversee the progress of the Aboriginal Justice Agreement (AJA) (External link). To keep track of programs under the AJA, click here (External link).

Acknowledgements

The AJF would like to thank the Aboriginal community from the Barwon South West region for attending the Community Forum and sharing their experiences.

Your contribution is invaluable.
 
 

Find out more

Contact the Barwon South West RAJAC Executive Officer - Allan Miller

03 5564 1000 / 0417 112 779

allan.miller@justice.vic.gov.au (External link)

Barwon South West RAJAC Chairperson - Jason Kanoa

 

Contact the Barwon South West RAJAC Executive Officer - Allan Miller

03 5564 1000 / 0417 112 779
allan.miller@justice.vic.gov.au (External link)