Briefing: Expand Justice Reinvestment in the ACT

Justice reinvestment was first developed in the United States as a way to reduce spending on prisons and reinvest savings on strategies to decrease crime and strengthen neighbourhoods.

Funding is provided for programs in communities from which many offenders come, to address the root causes of crime, and prevent people being caught up in the criminal justice system. Those who have committed offences are diverted away from prison using other forms of punishment and those likely to reoffend are prevented from doing so through effective rehabilitation, parole supervision and after-prison support.

A 2013 Senate Legislative Committee Inquiry into Justice Reinvestment noted the disproportionate number of Aboriginal people incarcerated and the very high cost of keeping offenders in jail, and argued that Justice Reinvestment would be a better way forward in Australia, with the Commonwealth taking the lead[1].

What does ANTAR want:

  • Further development of effective Justice Reinvestment Programs for First Nations people, including Justice Housing and expanding existing programs, such as those run by Yeddung Mura, to other parts of the ACT
  • Acceleration and expansion of Aboriginal drug and alcohol programs and Aboriginal mental health programs in the ACT

The ACT and Justice Reinvestment

The ACT Government started exploring Justice Reinvestment with a series of workshops that began in 2015. These workshops led to the development of the Yarrabi Bamirr Justice Reinvestment Trial, which was established as a family-centric model of case management and service delivery run by Winnunga Nimmitjyah Aboriginal Health and Community Service. An evaluation by ANU researchers of the first phase of this pilot program, involving 10 clients and their families, found that it had been overwhelmingly positive. This program continues, now at Yeddung Mura (

According to ACT Greens Attorney-General, “Over the past five years, at least $115 million has been dedicated to justice reinvestment initiatives, supporting various programs. These include:

  • Intensive Correction Orders: Allowing offenders to maintain employment and community connections, both of which are key factors in reducing reoffending. ..
  • Drug and Alcohol Sentencing List: Offering an alternative approach to rehabilitating offenders with drug or alcohol-related crimes. …

Evaluations show participants in the Drug and Alcohol Sentencing List experienced significant improvements in mental and physical health, relationships, employment and overall optimism about their future. Notably, graduates of the program ceased reoffending, with substantial reductions even for those who did not fully complete the program.”[2] 

The ACT Government also includes Justice Housing, the Strong Connected Neighbourhoods Program and programs to support Raising the Age of Criminal Responsibility from 10 years to 14 years by 2025 as Justice Reinvestment initiatives.

The above programs and data do not refer to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander offenders specifically. However there have been some initiatives that are First Nations specific:

  • The Galambany Court provides restorative processes to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander defendants through community involvement in sentencing,
  • The Warrumbul Circle Sentencing Court provides culturally relevant sentencing options for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people,
  • The Ngurrambai Bail Support Program supports First Nations people who may otherwise not receive or complete bail, and Empowering Yarning Circles support people who have been in contact with the Justice system. These are run by Aboriginal community-controlled organisations, particularly Yeddung Mura.
  • Yeddung Mura also offers a throughcare program for Aboriginal clients leaving jail and provides other support to families and those engaged in the justice system.

In addition, the Yeddung Mura External Reporting Site began in July 2021 to help facilitate culturally appropriate supervision of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander offenders subject to community-based corrections orders, e.g, Parole Orders, Intensive Correction Orders and Good Behaviour Orders. An evaluation of this model released in 2023 indicated that it was very successful, and that a similar program should be offered in the north of Canberra[3].

Further Reading

To contact ANTAR ACT:

Authorised by Janet Hunt on behalf of ANTAR ACT.

July 2024



[3] Australian Capital Territory Corrective Services. (2023) Yeddung Mura External Reporting Site Pilot—Evaluation Report. Canberra City: Australian Capital Territory Government.

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