At october 2018 the program had supported 12 young

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at October 2018, the Program had supported 12 young people who were referred to the Juvenile Justice Team (diversion from a court imposed sentence). 13 Nine of these referrals were successfully completed (64%) and diverted from further court hearings. The Program supported four young people to complete their requirements of court conferencing and thereby avoided further adjournments to enable completion or more punitive sentences. 22. Given the importance of diverting young people out of the criminal legal system at the earliest possible age, it was disappointing to see the Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service’s Balit Ngulu legal service forced to close in September 2018 due to lack of government funding. It was the only legal service in Australia dedicated to Aboriginal young people and assisted young people negotiate diversion plans with police prosecutors. 23. Diverting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and girls away from the legal system is essential. State and territory governments should therefore offer a range of gender specific and culturally responsive diversion options , provided by women’s organisations and Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations, to reduce the number of women being pushed into the legal system. 24. The criminalisation of minor offending and its impact on the over-imprisonment of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women is well documented. Following from key recommendations of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody, there have been repeated calls for the decriminalisation of minor offending including public order offences like drunkenness and offensive language, vehicle and driving offences and other minor offences that result in being punished with a fine and the implementation of non-punitive responses. 25. For the purposes of this submission, we focus on fines. Financial penalties can have serious adverse consequences for disadvantaged offenders, in particular Aboriginal and Torres Strait 13 NATSILS, Submission to Attorney- General’s Department, Review of the Indigenous Legal Assistance Programme (5 October 2018).
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