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Friday, June 18, 2021

ACT Policing face 38 recommendations from inquiry

ACT Policing have been handed 38 recommendations in a report issued by the Standing Committee on Justice and Community Safety yesterday.

The inquiry was announced in November 2019 to identify changes in the ACT Policing system before the next five-yearly contract between the Commonwealth and ACT Government is negotiated.

The ACT Council of Social Services (ACTCOSS) made one of 12 submissions to the inquiry, highlighting concerns of over-policing disadvantaged groups, incarceration rates of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, and the need to improve engagement with the community sector.

ACTCOSS CEO Dr Emma Campbell said she was happy with several recommendations in the report, especially those addressing cultural issues and disabled citizens. 

“ACTCOSS is pleased to see recommendations relating to engagement with community leaders in ‘faith and cultural communities’,” she said.

“ACTCOSS is also pleased to see multiple recommendations on improving ACT Policing knowledge, awareness and work with people with disability, with emphasis on people with cognitive disability such as autism spectrum disorder.”

She did, however, note disappointment on the lack of recommendations regarding the Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander community.

“The report makes limited mention of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people, which we see as a reflection of the narrow consultation undertaken by the Standing Committee,” she said.  

“Racism is not mentioned once. Yet racism and discrimination – conscious and unconscious – is central to the experiences of many Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people as victims of crime and in their other interactions with the justice system.

“Similar issues around racism and discrimination are reported by people from Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Backgrounds.”

The policing arrangement in the ACT is managed by the Australian Federal Police (AFP), which is contracted by the ACT Government to provide the service.

Recommendations within the report included maintenance on AFP housing buildings and the Gungahlin Police Station, as well as a mandatory annual report to the ACT Legislative Assembly.

Dr Campbell said ACTCOSS’s call for stronger community sector engagement had not been reflected and was a missed opportunity.

“Unfortunately, this is a missed opportunity to encourage ACT Policing to work with organisations and services who already have relationships with disadvantaged and vulnerable population groups,” she said.

“We are well placed to support ACT Policing to find opportunities for diversion away from the criminal justice system.

“Community organisations work with marginalised, disadvantaged and disengaged children, young people and families and provide a great avenue for building strong and safe communities.”

Dr Campbell said alternative recommendations, including a review of police complaint handling and better funding the ACT’s community legal services, would have better represented the needs of disadvantaged communities.

Other submissions were given from the ACT Ombudsman, the Weston Creek and Belconnen community councils and the ACT Human Rights Commission.

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