Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Justice Affairs

The Justice and Community Safety Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Justice Affairs portal aims to assist your search for information on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander justice issues, justice organisations, policies and research including cultural events of significance. The Justice and Community Safety Directorate acknowledges the traditional custodians, the Ngunnawal people and respect their continuing culture and the contribution they make to the life of the city and the surrounding region. Primary responsibility for public sector policy development and service delivery in relation to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the ACT rests with the Community Services Directorate (CSD). Specific information on the Office of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Affairs can be found on the CSD website including information on the ACT Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Elected Body and the United Ngunnawal Elders Council.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Significant Dates

February
13 February

Anniversary of the formal apology made on 13 February 2008 by the government and the Parliament of Australia to Australia's Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people - in particular to the Stolen Generations www.reconciliation.org.au

March
19 March

National Close the Gap Day is an annual event held to raise awareness of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health crisis www.oxfam.org.au

May
26 May

National Sorry Day offers the community the opportunity to acknowledge the impact of the policies spanning more than 150 years of forcible removal of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children from their families. The first National Sorry Day was held on 26 May 1998 following the 1997 Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission report Bringing Them Home which recommended that a national day of observance be declared www.reconciliation.org.au

27 May

In 1967 over 90% of Australians voted in a Referendum to remove clauses from the Australian Constitution which discriminated against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians. The Referendum also gave the Commonwealth Government the power to make laws on behalf of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people www.cmd.act.gov.au

June
27 May–3 June

National Reconciliation Week was initiated in 1996 to provide a special focus for nationwide activities. The week is a time to reflect on achievements so far and the things which must still be done to achieve reconciliation. National Reconciliation Week offers people across Australia the opportunity to focus on reconciliation, to hear about the cultures and histories of Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, and to explore new and better ways of meeting challenges in our communities. The Week is timed to coincide with two significant dates in Australia’s history, which provide strong symbols of our hopes and aims for reconciliation: 27 May and 3 June www.reconciliation.org.au

3 June

Mabo Day marks the anniversary of the High Court of Australia’s judgement in 1992 in the Mabo case. This is a day of particular significance for Torres Strait Islander Australians. Eddie ‘Koiki’ Mabo’s name is synonymous with native title rights. His story began in May 1982 when he and fellow Murray (Mer) Islanders David Passi, Sam Passi, James Rice and Celuia Salee instituted a claim in the High Court for native title to the Murray (Mer) Islands in the Torres Strait. The claim was made against the State of Queensland, which responded by seeking to legislate to extinguish retrospectively any native title on the Islands. This was challenged in the High Court on the grounds that it was inconsistent with the Racial Discrimination Act 1975. The High Court, in an historical judgement delivered on 3 June 1992, accepted the claim by Eddie Mabo and the other claimants that their people (the Meriam people) had occupied the Islands of Mer for hundreds of years before the arrival of the British. The High Court found that the Meriam people were ‘entitled as against the whole world to possession, occupation, use and enjoyment of lands in the Murray Islands.’ The decision overturned a legal fiction that Australia was terra nullius (a land belonging to no one) at the time of British colonisation.

July
1 July

This is a particular day of significance for Torres Strait Islander Australians. It marks the day the London Missionary Society first arrived in the Torres Strait. The missionaries landed at Erub Island on 1 July 1871. Religious and cultural ceremonies are held by Torres Strait Islander Christians across the Torres Strait and on the mainland to commemorate this day.

First full week in July

NAIDOC Week is a celebration of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and an opportunity to recognise the contribution of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians in various fields. For further information on NAIDOC, please visit the website www.naidoc.org.au

August
4 August

Children's Day and the week leading up to it, is a time to for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families to celebrate the strengths and culture of their children. The day is an opportunity for all Australians to show their support for Aboriginal children, as well as learn about the crucial impact that community, culture and family play in the life of every Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander child.

9 August

The International Day of the World's Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples is observed on August 9 each year to promote and protect the rights of the world’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population. This event also recognises the achievements and contributions that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people make to improve world issues such as environmental protection. It was first pronounced by the General Assembly of the United Nations in December 1994, marking the day of the first meeting of the United Nations Working Group on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Populations of the Sub-commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights, in 1982.

September
3 September

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Literacy Day aims to help raise funds to raise literacy levels and improve the lives and opportunities of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians living in remote and isolated regions.

13 September

The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly during its 61st session at UN Headquarters in New York City on 13 September 2007.

ACT Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Justice Services and Programs

Justice Support

The Aboriginal Legal Service (ALS) is currently providing some services previously provided by the Aboriginal Justice Centre (AJC) (which has now closed) including the Front Up Program, Interview Friends and Galambany Court Support.  A discussion paper on possible models to replace the AJC is being developed in consultation with the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Elected Body.

Free Wills for ACT Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Residents – Public Trustee and Guardian Office

The Public Trustee and Guardian for the ACT (PTG) was established to assist all members of our community to make appropriate decisions in the event of the loss of capacity or death through the making of Wills and Enduring Powers of Attorney as well as acting as executor or administrator. The Public Trustee and Guardian employs professional legal personnel and does not charge fees to make Wills for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Persons https://www.ptg.act.gov.au/images/pdf/ptg-fs-indigenous-wills.pdfGalambany ‘Circle Sentencing’ Court The specialist Galambany 'Circle Sentencing' Court provides a culturally relevant sentencing option in the ACT Magistrates Court jurisdiction for eligible Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who have offended. It is for both adults and young people, and gives the ACT Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community to work collaboratively with the ACT criminal justice system to address over-representation issues and offending behaviour. http://www.courts.act.gov.au/…

Aboriginal Legal Service [NSW / ACT] Limited

ALS gives legal advice and court representation to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men, women and children in the ACT and surrounding region. ALS works in two areas of law, criminal law and children’s care and protection law. For family and civil law matters, ALS gives information and referral to other legal practices.  Currently it is also providing services for the ACT community including the Front Up Program, Interview Friends and Galambany Court Support. www.alsnswact.org.au/offices/act

Women’s Legal Centre (ACT & Region) Incorporated

The Women’s Legal Centre (WLC) is a community legal centre. WLC provides legal assistance to women who would otherwise go without. The main areas of practice are family law, victims of crime, employment and discrimination. This includes providing culturally appropriate legal services.

Gugan Gulwan Youth Aboriginal Corporation

Gugan Gulwan’s vision is to provide a safe and supportive environment for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people and their families where they may gather and discuss issues that concern them and gain access to information, referral, counselling and remedial services. Programs include; Drug and Alcohol program, Mental Health program, Child Youth and Family program and a Reconnect Program, plus various different group programs. www.gugan-gulwan.com.au

Winnunga Nimmityjah Aboriginal Health Service

Winnunga aims to provide a culturally safe, holistic health care service for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people of the ACT and surrounding regions. The holistic health care provided by Winnunga Nimmityjah includes not only medical care, but a range of programs to promote good health and healthy lifestyles. www.winnunga.org.au/

Commonwealth Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Justice Affairs Information

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Services Guide

The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Guide provides information on legal and community support services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.Closing the Gap Clearinghouse The Closing the gap clearinghouse for research and evaluation evidence on what works to overcome Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander disadvantage.  The Clearinghouse provides online access to a collection of research and evaluations, plus Issues papers and Resource sheets that synthesise the evidence on a particular topic. The Council of Australian Governments (COAG) has set seven building blocks which support the COAG targets to overcome Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander disadvantage. http://www.pc.gov.au/research/ongoing/overcoming-indigenous-disadvantagewww.aihw.gov.au/closingthegap/

Closing the Gap

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Closing the gap web resource is for people interested in finding out more about the Closing the gap commitments of the Council of Australian Governments (COAG). www.healthinfonet.ecu.edu.au/closing-the-gap

United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples

The Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) is the nation’s independent human rights body. It works to find practical and long-term solutions to the human rights issues facing people in Australia, as well as to build greater understanding and respect for human rights in our community. AHRC’s site provides updates and fact sheets on United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples. www.hreoc.gov.au/social_justice/declaration/index.html

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice

The position of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner was created by the federal parliament in December 1992 – a response to the findings of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody and the National Inquiry into Racist Violence. It was also a response to the extreme social and economic disadvantage faced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians. The Commission's role includes reviewing the impact of laws and policies on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, reporting on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander social justice and native title issues and promoting an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander perspective on issues. In addition, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner monitors the enjoyment and exercise of human rights for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians. The Australian Human Rights Commission Act 1986 and the Native Title Act 1993 (Cth) require that the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner produces an annual Social Justice and a Native Title Report. These reports are tabled in Parliament. www.hreoc.gov.au/social_justice/index.html