The ACT government should move to establish a wide-ranging board of inquiry to assess Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander over-representation in the territory's justice system, a group of Indigenous leaders says.
Winnunga Nimmityjah chief executive Julie Tongs said a group of 16 senior Indigenous community leaders had unanimously decided to make the call for a royal commission-style inquiry to the territory government.
"It's definitely gone past a review. It needs to be bigger than [the Alexander Maconochie Centre]. It needs to look at police, it needs to look at housing, it needs to look at over-representation. It needs to actually look at what's actually happening in the AMC," Ms Tongs said.
The ministers for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander affairs, corrections and justice health will meet alongside Attorney-General Shane Rattenbury on Wednesday to discuss the proposal.
Ms Tongs said the group of community leaders would deliver recommended terms of reference for the inquiry to the government by the end of the week.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith on Tuesday stopped short of committing the ACT government to a board of inquiry.
"One thing we don't want to see is a mechanism that will simply kick the can down the road. We know that taking action now is absolutely critical. We know that having Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leadership of this process is absolutely critical," Ms Stephen-Smith said.
"We'll be having a conversation with Julie [Tongs] about what that process is going to look like and the work we can do immediately, in partnership with the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community to address this critical issue of over-representation."
Ms Tongs met with territory government ministers and officials earlier this year after last year calling for a review of Indigenous over-representation in the ACT's justice system.
"In a way it was a bit of a talk fest and one of the elders said that it wasn't enough time to make a decision, especially when I raised the issue around a royal commission," Ms Tongs said.
Following the meeting, the ACT government invited Ms Tongs to convene a meeting of Indigenous community leaders to consider what the next step should be.
The meeting of senior Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community leaders unanimously agreed that "the most effective and best prospect for identifying and responding to the over-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the ACT in touch with the criminal justice system or incarcerated, is by mean of a formal commission of inquiry".
The ACT government had committed to a review of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander over-representation in the justice system before last year's territory election.
Ms Tongs wrote to then attorney-general Gordon Ramsay in August 2020 to call for a review.
In a briefing to incoming Attorney-General Shane Rattenbury prepared after the election, the Justice and Community Safety Directorate said the Indigenous incarceration rate would need to fall by a quarter in the next 10 years to bring it into line with non-Indigenous incarceration.
The reduction needed is significantly higher than the ACT government's current target, which is to reduce by 5 per cent the rate of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults in prison by 2028.
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