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Annual Report 2017-2018 OmbudsmanNT



Annual Report 2017-2018 OmbudsmanNT

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Tabled paper 934


Tabled Papers for 13th Assembly 2016 - 2020; Tabled Papers; ParliamentNT






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1 INTRODUCTION OMBUDSMANS OVERVIEW Challenges that must be met My Office has always had a focus on police and corrections issues (our two biggest sources of complaint). This focus has intensified in recent times. From a corrections perspective, our most substantial piece of recent work in the area has been the Women in Prison II report1, tabled in August 2017. From a police perspective, there have been numerous investigations of police conduct, a significant proportion of which have involved complaints made on behalf of children (see for example, my report on Taser use and Management of NT Police conduct issues).2 Given the overrepresentation of Aboriginal people in the justice system, these matters have often been intertwined with Indigenous issues. The Royal Commission into the Protection and Detention of Children in the Northern Territory has shone a spotlight on youth justice issues and made sweeping recommendations for reform. My Office has made a number of recommendations relating to the treatment of women and children in the justice system, as well as recognising a broader need for change. Both have made clear the need for fundamental or paradigm change. Tweaking or incremental modifications will not be effective. These calls for systemic change are far from isolated and the NT Government has clearly recognised the need for such change. In Women in Prison II, I said: the reality is that, if [prisoners] problems are not squarely addressed now, experience shows that there is likely to be a lifetime of ongoing cost and harm to the community. In the absence of effective rehabilitation now, these are not problems that will go away. There must be a shift away from stone walls and iron bars towards an environment that will promote rehabilitation and reintegration. This is in the interests of the prisoners but it is also very much in the interests of the community. We need a system that will help prisoners to become valuable members of their communities and society and in doing so, minimise the prospects for future crime. Over time this will free up resources that are currently committed to a horrendously expensive detention model. However, there is no doubt that, initially, there will be a need for additional resources to implement re-engineering of the system. To adapt the enduring truism, it takes money to save money. Investing in better practice now will pay off for society as a whole in the long run. Government is faced with a diabolical dilemma. It is confronted with severely straitened economic circumstances but, if these problems are not to continue to plague society for generations to come, it must invest now. There are no easy answers but if transformational initiatives are not well-planned, fully-funded and wholeheartedly supported by Government over the long term, the only guarantee is that the problems we face now will continue and almost certainly worsen for all our children. 1 Women in Prison II report, discussed in Chapter 4 of this report. 2 Taser use and Management of NT Police conduct issues report, discussed in Chapter 4 of this report.