Edition #27
A note from the Director

Although the introduction of Stage 4 lockdown greatly affects our movement and some of the freedoms we take for granted, there are some silver linings emerging from the pandemic. The program housing homeless Victorians in hotels during the pandemic has been extended until April 2021; Victoria’s prison population is at a two-year low with increased approval of bail applications arresting a 20-year trend of increasing prison numbers; and there are now 165 vaccines in development, and 27 in human trials around the world in what is the biggest scientific collaboration in human history.

Through this period, the CIJ has adjusted our work practices to meet our new operating environment while maintaining our focus on improving the experience of people who come into contact with the justice system. Whether through submissions such as our Raising The Age submission to COAG; developing more appropriate family violence perpetrator interventions; working with private sector organisations in relation to restorative justice engagements, or offering online clinical placements to students, our work continues apace, despite Covid-19.

- Rob Hulls, Director, Centre for Innovative Justice

Raising the age

Approximately 8,000 Australian children and young people under the age of 14 were proceeded against by police in 2017-18. Of those whose matter progressed to the court system, approximately 780 were subject to supervision in the community and a further 600 were imprisoned in a detention facility. More than half of those in youth detention on an average day were unsentenced, meaning they had not yet been found guilty of a crime. 

These numbers are the very real human cost of the Council of Attorneys-General’s move this week to defer, for another year, the decision to raise the age of criminal responsibility in Australia to at least 14 – a decision that would have brought Australia in line with international human rights standards and scientific evidence on child and adolescent brain development, as well as preventing thousands of Australian children from being exposed to the harmful effects of the criminal justice system each year.

The criminalisation of children disproportionately impacts Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, children with disability, and those who have experienced abuse and neglect. There is also ample evidence to indicate that criminalising children does not work – the younger a child is at their first sentence, the more likely they are to reoffend, to reoffend violently, and to continue offending into the adult jurisdiction.

Australia cannot continue to use the criminal justice system as a backstop to the serious and systemic failure to adequately support young people and their families to thrive. The CIJ is committed to the continuing campaign to raise the age of criminal responsibility, and to working with government and other partners to establish restorative, rehabilitative and innovative models that can function as a positive intervention in a child’s life, and not one that entrenches harm and disadvantage. 

You can read our earlier submission to the Council of Attorneys-General here and add your voice to the campaign here.  

Open Circle Update

Open Circle, the Centre for Innovative Justice’s restorative justice service arm, has continued to receive and progress referrals for restorative processes between people impacted by crime and other harms. The Open Circle team has worked closely with organisations such as the Office of Public Prosecutions, the RTSSV and Victims Assistance Services to strengthen referral pathways and ensure that people impacted by harm are made aware of restorative justice options. You can read about some of the challenges of transitioning to online service delivery in our blog.

Open Circle has also been consulting to a range of organisations to develop restorative approaches and programs specific to their needs, including:
  • a restorative response to sexual assault and sexual offending for BHP;
  • a restorative approach to gathering evidence for investigations and inquiries involving young people
Finally, the new online environment has provided Open Circle with the opportunity to build its links to the international RJ practice and research community, including the UK’s Restorative Justice Council, the Diana Unwin Chair in Restorative Justice at the University of Wellington (NZ) and the European Forum for Restorative Justice. Through webinars, network meetings and workshops, we have been able to learn from (and contribute our own) practice experiences, challenges and outcomes among the global RJ community.

Reducing barriers to employment for Aboriginal people: Rethinking the Role of Criminal Record Checks Project  

This is a Victorian Legal Services Board funded project being carried out by RMIT University in partnership with Woor-Dungin. We are excited to announce that we will soon be welcoming new partners, Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations (VACCHO) and Winda Mara Aboriginal Corporation to contribute to the project. We are now in the process of establishing an Aboriginal led Reference Committee which will provide advice, guidance and feedback to support the delivery of the project. This project builds on the Criminal Record Discrimination Project. You can read more here for further info on the Criminal Record Discrimination Project.

Criminal record checking can be a major barrier to employment in Aboriginal communities. Aboriginal communities have highlighted the serious hurdles posed by employers’ use of criminal record checks, irrespective of the relevance of the criminal history. This project will explore ways to improve employment opportunities for Aboriginal people, and to support employers in recruitment of Aboriginal people.

The aims of the project are to identify existing good practice amongst employers, and to communicate these practices to jobseekers and employers in ways that can be readily adopted. We will also be engaging employers and employees in an ongoing program to enhance Aboriginal employment, in partnership with Victorian Aboriginal communities. 


Himilo Community Connect pilot  

Banyule has one of Australia’s largest Somali communities. In 2016, consultations were undertaken with the Heidelberg West Somali community to identify the challenges they faced. The consultations revealed that an increasing number of Somali young people from the Heidelberg area are coming into contact with the justice system. They also identified that the Somali community experience barriers in accessing support services, including services that have the potential to divert young people from the justice system. Between April 2017 and March 2018, offenders who were born in Somalia made up more than 3 times their population share. Additionally, the Banyule Somali community is significantly younger than the general Victorian population, with a median age of 18 compared to the Victorian median of 37.
Himilo Community Connect, a community-led project based in Heidelberg West, was established to address concerns raised in the 2016 consultations. Himilo provides education, employment, health and social cohesion outcomes for the local Somali community and provides direct support to Somali young people in contact with the justice system. In the 2019/20 financial year, Himilo provided support to 53 Somali young people who were charged with an offence. In addition, Himilo have partnered with local police to establish an ‘At-Risk Youth Panel’.


Improved accountability: The role of perpetrator intervention systems

The CIJ was thrilled to see the long awaited release of ANROWS funded research into the role of perpetrator intervention systems. This major edited collection – led by Professor Donna Chung from Curtin University – was a collaboration between researchers from multiple universities in different jurisdictions around Australia. This included a number of chapters co-authored by CIJ Associate Director, Elena Campbell, and will serve as a substantial contribution to the growing evidence base concerning perpetrator interventions. 

The collection features a range of case studies, including one led by Elena Campbell and CIJ Senior Adviser Tallace Bissett (see Chapter 4 of the Full Report) examining the various innovations and challenges inherent in the development of perpetrator intervention responses. The Victorian case study focused on the Southern Melbourne and Bayside Peninsula regions, regions which feature consistently high rates of family violence police callouts; a concentration of Men’s Behaviour Change Programs (MBCPS); and a significant number of innovative and proactive responses. 


Read the Key Findings Report here.
Read the Full Report here.

New project with KPMG and Respect Victoria

The CIJ is pleased to be working alongside the team at KPMG again – this time contributing towards a Knowledge Transfer Framework for Respect Victoria, the statutory authority established in response to Recommendation 188 of the Royal Commission into Family Violence. 

Respect Victoria is focused on the primary prevention of family violence for all Victorians and is responsible for delivering on research and evaluation, as well as community engagement, under Victoria’s Free from Violence Strategy. This project, led by KPMG and supported by CIJ Associate Director, Elena Campbell, will develop a framework which provides an even stronger foundation for Respect Victoria’s mission – sharing evidence in accessible formats for Victoria’s diverse communities and informing the Victorian Government’s ongoing efforts to prevent family violence.

A chat with Jennifer Lim

Juris Doctor Student Program Manager, Mi-Lin Chen Yi Mei, had a chat with Jennifer Lim who is currently at the Disability Royal Commission.

The CIJ’s Juris Doctor Student Program and adapting to COVID19

For Semester 2, the CIJ has been working closely with our community legal centre partners LACW, Young Workers Centre and Youthlaw to offer ten online internship opportunities to RMIT Juris Doctor students. The online internships are project based and have been co-designed with our partners to include research into the effects on legal service responses as a result of COVID-19 as well as designing and developing community legal education resources. 

Open Circle, the CIJ’s restorative justice service, is also engaging two student interns to assist with research into best practice in restorative justice conferencing to assist develop resources whilst also providing the opportunity gain exposure to restorative justice principles. 

The CIJ is also working the Neighbourhood Justice Centre, the only community justice centre in Australia, to offer an online taster placement for students that will include a virtual tour of the Centre located in Collingwood as well as the opportunity to hear from community lawyers from Fitzroy Legal Service and Victoria Legal Aid and learn more about the therapeutic justice model that the Court operates


Curfew must involve a plan for those who have no choice but to be out
Elena Campbell, The Age, 4 August 2020

"Our own and wider research into the experience and use of family violence by young people indicates that young people who spend time in public places and/or shuttle between friends’ houses often do so simply because it is not safe for them to go home."

Australian prisons
Philip Clark with CIJ's Stan Winford, ABC Nightlife, 12 July 2020

Human rights under lockdown
Michael Mackenzie with CIJ's Stan Winford, ABC Life Matters, 7 July 2020

Coronavirus Melbourne: Why Victoria is getting clusters of outbreaks
Jamie Seidel, Daily Telegraph, 3 July 2020

Lockdown returns: how far can coronavirus measures go before they infringe on human rights? 
Stan Winford, The Conversation, 2 July 2020 

2020 Higinbotham Lecture: The Victorian Legal System in a Global Pandemic
The annual Higinbotham lecture is one of RMIT’s most prestigious events and celebrates the legacy of politician and Chief Justice George Higinbotham, exploring topical legal issues and the interaction between law and society.

The 2020 Higinbotham Lecture will be delivered by The Hon. Jill Hennessy MP, Attorney-General and Minister for Workplace Safety in the Victorian Government.

Stay safe! 

- CIJ Team
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