Victorian Government Overarching Indigenous Strategic Policy Framework

Indigenous Affairs Framework (2006) (Dept of Planning and Community Development-Aboriginal Affairs Victoria) (VIAF)

The Victorian Indigenous Affairs Framework was developed as part of a number of commitments made in the Aboriginal Justice Agreement (VAJA) (see below) and outlines how the Government will meet its commitment in A Fairer Victoria (see below) to ‘build a new partnership with Indigenous Victorians'. The VIAF (2006) contains nine principles for reform, a strategic policy framework, a performance framework, and a partnership coordination and management framework.  The stated overall goal of Government in relation to Indigenous Affairs, according to the VIAF, is to raise the life expectancy and quality of life of Indigenous Victorians.  Specific building blocks in achieving this goal include justice before the law (as well as others relating to health, education and employment).

The Strategic Policy Framework refers to the overall goal of the VIAF as improving life expectancy and quality of life for Indigenous Victorians, and sets out three relevant priority outcomes. Those outcomes include prevention of violence and crime and self-harm (as well as broader social outcomes relating to strengthening community, inter alia).  The six strategic areas for action include improvement of justice outcomes (area # 4).  Those strategic areas also link to the VIAF Performance Framework. The Performance Framework commits the Government to achieving improvements against the Strategic Change Indicators for the relevant strategic areas for action.  These indicators serve as markers, en route to longer-term change, in reducing Indigenous disadvantage.  Achieving improvements in terms of these indicators is the basis for improving headline indicators and achieving the priority outcomes of the VIAF.  So, for instance, for strategic area # 4 - ‘prevention of family violence and improvement of justice outcomes' - relevant strategic change indicators are an increase in the proportion of Indigenous people cautioned when processed by police and a reduction in the number of times Indigenous youth are processed by police (arrest, summons, caution), in the proportion of Indigenous people remanded in custody, the proportion of Indigenous adults sentenced to prison rather than other orders, and of Indigenous adults/youth who are convicted within two years of their previous conviction. These indicators serve as 5, 10 and 15-year markers of progress towards achieving equitable outcomes for Indigenous Victorians.

The Victorian Government Indigenous Affairs Report (2005-2007)

The Victorian Government Indigenous Affairs Report was published in 2005/06 and 2006/07.  The reports provide information on progress in achieving outcomes in improving circumstances of Indigenous Victorians.

For 2005/06, the Report indicates that the Government has delivered a range of programs in partnership with the Indigenous community organised around the five themes of the VIAF, including ‘improved justice outcomes'. Financial commitments in the 2006/07 State Budget include a promise, inter alia, to extend the VAJA (Koori Courts; extension of mentoring, liaison and support programs and capital works to support the Indigenous Residential Diversion Program).  Information is provided about initiatives undertaken to date.  As a result of the Implementation Review of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody, Phase 2 of the Aboriginal Justice Agreement was developed (VAJA2) (see below).  As part of VAJA2,  Koori Courts (having been reviewed as highly successful (Harris (2005) (see below)) were expanded, and the Children's Koori Court commenced operation.  Aboriginal Official Visitors visited a number of prisons in order to provide a report to the Minister of Corrections in relation to prisons operations.  Further, the mainstream Cognitive Skills Program has been adapted to meet the needs of Indigenous prisoners.

In 2006/07, progress was made in terms the VIAF and Fairer Victoria.  The Report again sets out initiatives undertaken for each strategic area, as follows.  For Area for Action # 4 (Part 2) - ‘improve justice outcomes' - relevant initiatives include Koori Courts and the Koori Pre and Post Release Services Program.  Programs such as the Marumali Program, assisting with the underlying causes of offending behaviour by healing trauma, and the Koori Cognitive Skills Program, are also contributing in this area.  Next steps include expanding the Koori Offender Mentoring and Support Program and Koori Courts; delivering a Bridging Support Program through Corrections to support prisoners returning to communities; improving management of offenders undertaking mandated community work; and liaising with the Sheriffs office to ensure appropriate restoration of unpaid fines through the Local Justice Worker program (to reduce progression into the justice system for breaches of orders and minor infringements). (1)

A Fairer Victoria 2007 (Dept Planning and Community Development)

A Fairer Victoria-The Victorian Government's Social Policy Action Plan was released in April 2005.  A Fairer Victoria sets out a framework for achieving ‘social sustainability', for addressing disadvantage, and for the first steps to be taken by Government in a long-term approach to creating new opportunities for disadvantaged Victorians. It outlines Government actions to improve access to vital services, to reduce barriers to opportunity, to strengthen assistance for disadvantaged groups and places, and to ensure that people get the help they need at critical times in their lives.  It sets out 85 actions to be undertaken within 14 major strategies over a five to ten year period.  In terms of strategies, initially the only Indigenous-specific strategy is Strategy 9 - ‘building a new partnership with Indigenous Victorians'.  However, throughout the other strategies, there is reference to Indigenous disadvantage, although not directly in relation to criminal justice issues. 

In 2006, a revised document was released, A Fairer Victoria - Progress and Next Steps - setting out what had been achieved, and details in relation to how to move forward.  In terms of Strategy 8 - ‘improving access to justice' - overrepresentation of Indigenous people is being addressed through an expansion of Koori Courts to Mildura and Moe, and through establishment of the first stand-alone Koori Children's Court in Australia. The Government also commits to extending the VAJA (9.1), and to building a new residential facility for Koori youth with substance abuse issues (9.5).

A Fairer Victoria - Building on our commitment was released in 2007.  The document indicates that, in terms of Strategy 8 - ‘improving access to justice'- seven new Koori Courts have been established, as has the Koori Children's Court.  In terms of Strategy 9 - ‘building a new partnership with Indigenous Victorians'- work on the VAJA2 will continue (including providing additional Koori liaison officers to assist offenders with court diversion and support programs; targeting young Koories in contact with the juvenile justice system; and expanding the Community Support for Indigenous Offenders Program to reduce breaches of community based orders).


1. For information on the Koori Local Justice Worker program, see the Victorian Department of Justice media release.