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Monday, 7 November 2011
Page: 8332


Senator LUDWIG (QueenslandMinister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Manager of Government Business in the Senate and Minister Assisting the Attorney-General on Queensland Floods Recovery) (15:05): I seek leave to have the answer to Senator Wright's question of 3 November 2011 to the Attorney-General incorporated in Hansard.

Leave granted.

The answer read as follows—

ANSWER

The Attorney-General has provided the following answer to the Honourable Senator's questions taken on notice on 3 November in relation to:

funding for organisations assisting Indigenous Australians in prison;

the case management approach required for the provision of prisoner through care services; and

the recommendation of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs, in the Doing Time—Time for Doing report, that the Commonwealth Government endorse justice targets for inclusion in COAG's Closing the Gap strategy.

ANSWER - FUNDING

The Government provides funding for Indigenous prisoner through care projects through the Indigenous Justice Program administered by the Attorney-General's Department.   The Indigenous Justice Program totals $11.4 million in 2011-12 and funds projects designed to improve Indigenous community safety across Australia by addressing offending, victimisation and incarceration. This funding complements the efforts of State and Territory governments, which have primary responsibility in this area.

In line with this Government's strong commitment to improve justice outcomes for Indigenous Australians, the Attorney-General's Department actually increased funding for prisoner through care projects in 2011-12. The amount invested in these projects increased to $3.5 million, up from $2.9 million in 2010-11.

There were a number of projects that did not demonstrate strong results in 2010-11 and as a result, were not funded in 2011-12 or had their funding reduced. The Department's decision to decline or reduce funding was based on a thorough assessment of the project's likelihood of achieving outcomes to successfully rehabilitate prisoners and reduce their likelihood of reoffending. The Department took into account factors including the merits of each applicant's funding submission, past performance and external reviews (where relevant) and competition amongst the applications received.

Transitional funding of between three to six months has been offered to all projects that had been funded previously but declined in 2011-12, in order to assist them to transition services for clients and meet staff obligations.

ANSWER — THROUGH CARE - CASE MANAGEMENT REQUIREMENTS

The prisoner through care projects funded by the Attorney-General's Department are intended to achieve successful reintegration of prisoners back into their community and to reduce or prevent further offending. A case management approach is needed to support prisoners from the pre-release stage through to post release so that there is a continuum of service across all critical elements in their rehabilitation. Complementary services, such as financial counselling and holistic community support programs, may be provided as part of an individual's case plan.

ANSWER — JUSTICE CLOSING THE GAP TARGET

The Government expects to respond to the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs' report Doing Time —Time for Doing by the end of 2011.

At the July 2011 meeting the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General, Ministers discussed the unacceptable rates of incarceration of Indigenous Australians and the Doing Time — Time for Doing Report and agreed:

(a) to significantly reduce the gap in Indigenous offending and victimisation and to accurately track and review progress with a view to reviewing the level of effort required to achieve outcomes, and

(b) to ask First Ministers to refer to COAG the possible adoption of justice specific Indigenous closing the gap targets, acknowledging that in many instances their relative occurrence are due to variable factors outside the justice system.

Following this decision, on 25 October 2011 the

Honourable John Rau MP, as the current Chair of the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General, wrote to the Prime Minister requesting that justice-specific Closing the Gap targets be included for consideration on the COAG agenda.