Closing the Indigenous Justice Gap


A Shorten Labor Government will deliver a $107 million package to address the disadvantage experienced by First Nations peoples in the justice system.

Nowhere is the story of unfairness and diminished opportunity more clearly defined than in the justice gap experienced by First Nations peoples.

For too long, our justice system has failed First Nations peoples. It has been 28 years since the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody and yet the vicious cycle that drives the unacceptable over-representation of Indigenous Australians in our justice system continues.

Labor believes that in tackling the entrenched disadvantages faced by First Nations peoples in the justice system, we must be guided by those who live the reality of the justice gap – Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and their community-controlled, representative organisations.


A Labor Government will:

  • Strengthen access to justice for First Nations peoples by providing $40 million over four years to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services. This will greatly enhance its ability to fulfil its critical functions.
  • Provide $4 million over four years to the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services, to build its capacity to lead the sector and to improve justice outcomes based on community, culture and empowerment.
  • Work with the states and territories to adopt justice targets under the Closing the Gap framework.
  • Work with state and territory governments to grow and sustain alternative sentencing mechanisms such as Koori Courts and mediation forums to reduce pressure on the overburdened justice system.
  • Invest $21.75 million over four years into progressing justice reinvestment. Extend the justice reinvestment project currently underway in Bourke, New South Wales; and introduce the trial to sites in Western Australia, Queensland and the Northern Territory. Establish three new launch sites in a major city, regional town and remote community that build on existing community-led initiatives to explore the role of justice reinvestment in preventing crime and reducing incarceration.
  • Through COAG, establish a national coordinating body, as recommended by the Australian Law Reform Commission, to build the evidence base; collect data and measure progress as the new targets are implemented; and to monitor the effectiveness of justice reinvestment in the Australian context.
  • Work in partnership with First Nations women to address unacceptably high rates of violence against Indigenous women. Labor will provide a dedicated First Nations’ stream of the $60 million Community Prevention and Frontline Service Grants program to support community-led and culturally-appropriate prevention programs.
  • Invest in Aboriginal-controlled frontline services, including at least $20 million for refuges and safe houses and a $21.5 million boost to Family Violence Prevention Legal Services over four years.

Only Labor can be trusted to deliver a fair go under the law for First Australians. This election is a choice between a properly funded, First Nations-led and evidence-based justice package under Labor, or further cuts and chaos to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services under the Liberals.