B.8 Community Engagement and Support

Legislation Policy and Programs Community Support

Roundtable on Overrepresentation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the ACT criminal justice system

On 9 February 2021, the Legislative Assembly passed a resolution that called on the ACT Government to proceed with a review into overrepresentation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the ACT justice system in a timely way.

In response, on 25 March 2021, representatives of the local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community were invited to attend a Roundtable with the Attorney-General, Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs, Minister for Police and Emergency Services and Minister for Corrections, and Minister for Health Justice to seek views on the proposed review and the need to reduce the rate of incarceration of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

These consultations will help to shape a community-led review.

On Country, Yarning, and Other Cultural Programs co-design workshops

As part of the co-design engagement process for the On Country, Yarning, and Other Cultural Programs, a Community Workshop, Stakeholder Engagement Workshop and Core Design Team Workshop were held between 23 February and 16 March 2021.  The input from the Community and Stakeholder Workshops was shared with the amalgamated Core Design Team to finalise the design and development phases, with support from an expert co-design facilitator, Think Place.  All workshops were facilitated by Spirit Dreaming Training and Education.

In summary, this has resulted in a range of key design features/ principles to be included in the Program, with primacy for the principle of maximum flexibility for each initiative within the Program to be tailored to the person.  The Yarning Circles initiative from this Program is due to commence following the conclusion of the current COVID-19 lockdown.

Supporting tenants transition out of the COVID-19 eviction moratorium

During the 2020 shutdown, a COVID-19 eviction moratorium prevented tenants who had lost income due to COVID-19 response measures from being evicted due to rent arrears during the moratorium period. There was a concern that those who fell into rent arrears during the moratorium and were unable to repay their arrears by the end of the moratorium period, would face eviction as soon as the moratorium ended. The JACS Directorate consulted with residential tenancy stakeholders on how to support tenants impacted by COVID-19 transition out of the eviction moratorium period.   

After consultation with key stakeholders, the ACT Government put in place a post moratorium transition period which prevented those with rent arrears accrued during the moratorium from being evicted based on that debt so long as they paid their rent as it fell due during the transition period. This supported impacted tenants who were likely be able to sustain their tenancies in the longer term with more time to repay their rent arrears.

COVID-19 legal assistance funding>

LPP worked with the legal assistance sector in 2020-21 to support Canberrans to respond to legal needs arising from or impacted by COVID-19. LPP did this by administering $206 000 of ACT Government (Justice and Community Safety Directorate) funding and $944 287 of Commonwealth funding through the Project Agreement for COVID-19 Legal Assistance Funding towards frontline service delivery and ICT upgrades to enable remote working and greater outreach and virtual service delivery.

This funding assisted over 1700 clients with legal issues of housing, Centrelink, family violence, court representation, employment, and more. CARE Financial Counselling’s Consumer Law Centre also saved over $377 000 in waivers, compensation, and reimbursements for their clients facing economic abuse because of family violence. 

This support strengthened Canberra’s response to COVID-related legal and financial needs and helped to create a more resilient community as we go forward into 2022.

The ACT is committed to protecting vulnerable Canberrans

After the Crimes (Offences Against Vulnerable People) Legislation Amendment Act 2020 passed in August 2020, JACS focused on wide-reaching community engagement to ensure stakeholder awareness of new offences designed to protect vulnerable people from abuse and neglect. A consultation framework was established, which involved 42 members from various Government agencies, Government-appointed advisory bodies, non-government bodies, and individuals with an interest who wish to participate, such as advocacy organisations, service providers, and carers. The consultation supported the implementation of the new laws, including by assisting with the development of appropriate information materials for community distribution. This has been critical to ensuring that the key information about the new laws, and their implications for sectors of the community, were delivered effectively.