Respected Aboriginal elders will soon be helping supervise young offenders under an innovative Ministry of Justice pilot program due to begin next month.
Assisting Justice Minister Kevin Minson said today the Aboriginal Family Supervision program aimed to reduce re-offending and breach rates of young Aboriginal offenders.
Mr Minson said the program had been backed by a survey of about 100 Aboriginal families in the northern and north-eastern suburbs which showed they wanted help in regaining control over their children.
"It will link young offenders with significant Aboriginal decision-makers, who will be identified by offenders and their families, as key authority figures and decision-makers and contracted through the Ministry of Justice as supervisors," he said.
"The supervisors will not be direct care givers such as parents."
Mr Minson said the survey, conducted by the Ministry with the assistance of the Aboriginal Affairs Department, had been extremely enlightening.
"It found a deep concern among those surveyed that they had lost authority with their children and felt unable to have any effect on the behaviour of young members of the family," he said.
"Aboriginal families say they want to become more involved in decisions made in relation to their young people and can identify significant people who are the decision-makers and authority figures whom members respect and respond to."
Mr Minson said the pilot program would involve the Ministry contracting decision-makers to help with the day-to-day supervision and management of Aboriginal offenders between the ages of 16-21 who are subject to community-based court orders, supervised release orders or parole.
He said management of young Aboriginal offenders on orders in the metropolitan area and the South-West was not having a significant impact on recidivist or detention rates, imprisonment or the number of breaches committed.
"However, in the Pilbara and Kimberley regions where Aboriginal communities have been directly involved in supervision arrangements, a significant reduction in re-offending rates and breaches can be seen," he said.
"The high rates of recidivism, detention, imprisonment and breaches of community-based orders by young Aboriginal offenders have been raised by the Aboriginal Justice Committee and Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody as issues of concern.
"We are constantly looking for ways to improve the system and I look forward to seeing good results in the long-term from this program for the whole community."
Three Justice Ministry Aboriginal co-ordinators will manage the pilot program, which will operate from the juvenile justice offices in Balcatta, Midland and Geraldton, each handling around 20 cases.
"The co-ordinators' first task will be to establish contacts within the Aboriginal community to enable the program to be understood and accepted," Mr Minson said.
"Once the program is up and running, the co-ordinators will present recommended regimes to the court, Supervised Release Board or Parole Board, outlining the supervision of the offender by an appointed decision-maker.
"The co-ordinator will maintain legal jurisdiction over the offender at all times, but the contracted person will have active case management responsibility and be consulted on supervision issues."
Decision-makers contracted as supervisors will have an honorary role. However, their expenses will be covered by the Ministry.
The pilot programs will run for 12 months before a review is conducted.
Media contact: Caroline Lacy 222 9211