Collecting pockets of good work already occurring across the ACT justice system that contribute to better access and delivery of services for people with disability.
This paper discusses a range of systemic gaps that contribute to the barriers experienced by people with disability in accessing equality before the law, and suggests improvements and areas of priority.
It is important, however, to acknowledge that there are pockets of work occurring across the justice system that contribute to better access and delivery of services for people with disability. Many of these examples are outlined below. A Disability Justice Strategy will provide a blueprint for reform and will create a thread that links these pockets together rather than areas working in isolation to address aspects of the bigger issue.
A Change to Juries ACT
A change to the Juries Act 1967 in the ACT now ensures people with disability are not automatically exempt from jury duty. If a person may be unable to properly discharge the duties of a juror because they either have an insufficient understanding of English or have a mental or psychical disability, the judge must consider if supports that would enable the person to properly discharge the duties of jurorcan reasonably be given and if satisfied must make a direction that support be given.
ACT Courts and Tribunals
The ACT Courts and Tribunal Service has appointed its first Courts and Tribunal Assistance Officer, focused on ensuring the court and tribunals are more accessible to people with disability and essential adjustments such as hearing loops, support services and reasonable accommodations can be made available based on individual need.
ACT Courts and Tribunal (ACTCT) works with court and tribunal users who have disabilities to make reasonable adjustments to ensure its services are accessible to all members of the community.
ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal undertake guardianship hearings at hospitals allowing people with psycho-social and mental health disabilities to attend hearings, increasing hearing attendance to approximately 95 per cent, reducing the time between lodgement of an application and a hearing and where appropriate allowing earlier discharge from hospital.
Audio-Visual Links to Give Evidence
The ACT already has a suite of legislative provisions and tools designed to achieve the best possible evidence from witnesses such as giving evidence via an audio-visual link or from behind a screen.
ACTCT’s new court buildings are fully compliant in terms of meeting disability requirements. Also, ACTCT is working on improving access to information and training for staff on responding to people with disability.
Easy English Training
The Office for Disability, through their Disability Inclusion Grants, is providing training to a number of justice organisations in the preparation of easy English material to improve their legal information offerings through the disability inclusion grants.
The Throughcare Unit is a targeted transitional project designed to break the cycle of reoffending for sentenced detainees released from the Alexander Maconochie Centre (AMC). www.humanrights.gov.au/our-work/disability-rights/current-projects/programs-and-services-assist-
Canberra Community Law's Socio-Legal Practice Clinic
The Socio-Legal Practice Clinic (SLP Clinic) is focused on preventing homelessness by providing intensive legal and social case work for some of the centre’s most disadvantaged and vulnerable clients, including people with disability.
Street Law at the Junction Youth Health Service
Free legal advice is available to young people who are experiencing or at risk of homelessness. This partnership brings together lawyers, health workers and social services on-site at the Junction Youth Health Service allowing young people easier access to support.
Family Safety Hub Early Intervention Pilot for Pregnant Women and new Parents
A pilot program under the Family Safety program, between Legal Aid ACT/ACT Women’s Legal Centre and Calvary hospital, Centenary Women’s and Children’s Hospital and the Gungahlin Child and Family Centre.
Easy access to free and confidential legal services, available to pregnant women and new families experiencing domestic and family violence at Calvary Public Hospital, the Centenary Hospital for Women and Children and the Gungahlin Child and Family Centre will have.
www.cmtedd.act.gov.au/open_government/inform/act_government_media_releases/yvette-berry- mla-media-releases/2018/family-safety-hub-launches-first-early-intervention-pilot-for-pregnant- women-and-new-parents
Prisoner's Air ACT Financial Help
Prisoner’s Aid ACT has a policy of providing financial help to families of AMC detainees in cases where travel to the AMC might be difficult due to disability. www.paact.org.au/index.php/9-content/245-guidelines-for-assistance-to-families-as-at-8-april-2000
Women's Centre for Health Matters work with Women in the AMC
In 2018 the Women’s Centre for Health Matters (WCHM) started working with the women in the AMC on Mondays, equipping them with health-related information, such as accessing help and support for borderline personality disorder. Contact: Marcia Williams firstname.lastname@example.org
TJILLARI Justice Aboriginal Corporation
Tjillari have been funded by the Magistrate’s Court to offer literacy assessments in the Galambany Circle Sentencing Court. Contact: Deborah Evans email@example.com
ACT Policing and ACT Health Partnership
ACT Policing has undertaken significant work to improve responses to people with mental illness, including establishing a partnership with ACT Health and providing substantial training to operational staff. This approach may provide a useful model to introduce improvements for people with disability.
There are two organisations in the ACT that provide important systemic and individual advocacy services for people with disability, including advocating for improved access to justice.
The ACT Disability, Aged and Carer Advocacy Service (ADACAS), is an independent, not-for-profit, advocacy organisation helping people with disability, older people and their carers. ADACAS provides free independent advocacy in the ACT.
Advocacy for Inclusion
Supports people with disability in asserting their rights. They provide self, individual and systemic advocacy services in addition to disability awareness and inclusion training to the wider community. www.advocacyforinclusion.org
Advocacy for Inclusion Police Wallet Cards
Advocacy for Inclusion (AFI) has developed police wallet cards designed for people with disability, in consultation with the AFP. This card is to help when dealing with the police in the ACT and can also assist police in recognising when a person may require further supports. AFI have found the cards to be useful for people with disability to have something on hand to explain that they have a disability, as well as for police awareness and knowledge. They are also a great tool for people with cognitive/intellectual disability to be able to follow simple steps and not to be intimidated by police presence.
Supported Decision-Making (SDM) is for people who may need support to make decisions. They may need support because their decision making capacity is impaired due to age, disability, acquired brain injury or mental illness. SDM is also for people sharing their lives with a person who has impaired decision making. It offers a way to give support that enables the person with impaired capacity to live the life they would choose for themselves, regardless of their disability.
A range of work has previously been undertaken in the ACT to: trial different approaches to SDM, provide training, develop tools and undertake awareness raising activities. ADACAS and Advocacy for Inclusion are currently undertaking a joint ACT Government project to progress cultural change, training and use of SDM across the ACT community.
Koomarri’S Career Discovery Project
Koomarri’s Career Discovery Project will support ten young people with a diagnosed or suspected cognitive disability who are at risk of criminal justice involvement to find employment that is personally meaningful and socially valued. Priority will be given to young people who have been charged with an offence or are at risk of offending, aged 25 years or below. This is funded through the NDIS Information Linkages and Capacity Building fund (ILC)
Koomarri's Forensic Disability Services
Koomarri’s Forensic Disability Service has been in operation since 2013. It began with support of one individual who had been exited from numerous disability support organisations who cited a complexity that was beyond their ability to support. The service works alongside the disability sector, but also mental health, homelessness, drug and alcohol, justice and primary health services across the ACT and Southern NSW regions.
Integrated Service Response Program
The ISRP is for people with disability with intensive support needs, who are participating in the NDIS or who meet the disability eligibility requirements for the NDIS , and need coordination of mainstream services because their wellbeing and stability in the community is threatened by crisis, complexity or the changing nature of their support needs, or community safety concerns.
New APP to Support Women with Disability
The Sunny app is a new venture between 1800RESPECT and Medibank that supports women with disability who experience or are at risk of violence. Sunny uses interactive techniques to help women identify different forms of violence and abuse, and provides accessible information about their rights and where they can get help. The ‘Get Help’ button includes a link to 000 if the user is in immediate danger or to 1800RESPECT if they would like to speak to a counsellor.
Bail Support Trail
The Bail Support Trail (Ngurrambai) seeks to support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to achieve bail and to understand and comply with bail orders. The trial includes two bail support officers employed by the Aboriginal Legal Service (ALS) who attend court to assist clients. Clients are also supported by a suite of programs to help address any other issues that may affect their bail.
www.cmtedd.act.gov.au/open_government/inform/act_government_media_releases/ rattenbury/2017/bail-support-program-provides-more-support-to-aboriginal-and-torres-strait- islander-detainees
Stepping Stones Triple P Program
The Stepping Stones Triple P program seeks to support parents to manage behaviours of concern and emotional regulation of their children.
So Safe Program
The So Safe Program is developed for people support enhanced personal safety based behaviours for people with intellectual disability Identify. It provides teachers, trainers and counsellors with skills and simple visual tools to enhance the social, social-sexual and social safety training of people with moderate to severe intellectual disability.
ACT Corrective Services Disability Framework
ACT Corrective Services is already working to introduce a disability framework to guide the operational approach to people with disability. This is being undertaken collaboratively with the Disability Justice Strategy team (jointly staffed by the Community Services Directorate and the Justice and Community Safety Directorate). In addition, a new training program for custodial officers was piloted in October 2018.
ACTEW Staying Connected
The ACTEW Staying Connected program is designed to support people experiencing financial hardship to manage their electricity, gas and water bills and stay connected. The program offers personalised service to assist with developing an affordable payment plan, keep people connected while they are on the program and ensure they are getting all the relevant concessions and rebates.