New investment in Just Reinvest

By Mark Ragg. This article first appeared in Croakey on 23 March 2019 

Ragg & Co > Commentary > New investment in Just Reinvest

Just Reinvest NSW announced recently that the Federal Government has committed $1.5 million over five years to justice reinvestment programs, with the NSW Government committing $300,000 for the first year. This co-investment has come through the Federal Government’s Stronger Places, Stronger People program.

The Maranguka Justice Reinvestment Project in Bourke will be one of ten sites to receive funding. Until now, Maranguka has been largely supported by philanthropic contributions.

Alistair Ferguson, executive director of Maranguka, said: ‘This partnership with government provides a level of stability around, and commitment to, a core part of our Safe, Smart, Strong strategy to develop a more coordinated response and realignment of service provision in Bourke.’

Significant step forward

Sarah Hopkins, the chair of Just Reinvest NSW, sees the government support as ‘a significant step forward for the justice reinvestment movement in Australia.

‘We are currently working with additional communities in NSW and are calling on the NSW Government to provide additional funding for sites and an independent body to support those sites,’ she said. 

Bourke is a town 800km northwest of Sydney, on the banks of the now dry Darling River. It sits on a traditional boundary area for the Ngemba, Murrawarri, Budgiti and Barkinji peoples. Following the forced relocations of the 20thcentury, there are now more than 20 tribal groups living in Bourke.

The Maranguka Justice Reinvestment Project arose from the concern of Aboriginal families in the region over high levels of social disadvantage and crime. Just Reinvest NSW describes Maranguka, which means ‘caring for others’ in Ngemba language, as a model of Indigenous self-governance which empowers community to coordinate the right mix and timing of services through an Aboriginal community-owned and community-led multidisciplinary team, working in partnership with relevant government and non-government agencies.

Results impressive

The results of Maranguka Justice Reinvestment have been impressive.

The project started with a long phase focused on building trust between the community and service providers such as police and government agencies. The community identified priorities and developed ‘circuit breaker’ programs in justice, employment, mental health and family violence. It also collected baseline data.

A preliminary assessment in 2016 ‘the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community governance model used in the Project strategically aligns with Government aspirations for improving economic and social conditions in Aboriginal communities and realising community priorities.’, according to the Law Council of Australia’s consultation paper RRR Australia, released in 2017 as part of its Justice Project.

The first thorough impact assessment by KPMG found that in 2017, compared with 2016, there were marked improvements in:

  • family strength, with a 23 per cent reduction in police recorded incidence of domestic violence and comparable drops in rates of re- offending
  • youth development, with a 31 per cent increase in year 12 student retention rates and a 38 per cent reduction in charges across the top five juvenile offence categories
  • adult empowerment, with a 14 per cent reduction in bail breaches and a 42 per cent reduction in days spent in custody.

By Mark Ragg. This article first appeared in Croakey on 23 March 2019 

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