The Paul Ramsay Foundation today announced an investment of $2 million towards an effort led by Aboriginal communities and Government – to break the cycle of incarceration in the Northern Territory.

Chief Operating Officer Cindy Penrose said the Foundation was engaging closely with Aboriginal-led organisations and the Northern Territory Government (NTG) in developing the funding partnership, which was part of a wider national focus on criminal justice reform.

“The Foundation’s purpose is to break cycles of disadvantage, and criminal justice reform is at the heart of its strategy to achieve this,” said Ms Penrose, who is the Chair of the Foundation’s criminal justice portfolio.

“This unique partnership will bring together the Paul Ramsay Foundation, community-led organisations and government in a joint effort to improve justice outcomes for Aboriginal people.

“The investment will go towards several initiatives aimed at breaking the cycle of incarceration in the Northern Territory, which we are developing in partnership with local Aboriginal-led community organisations and the Government.

“We need to confront the fact that jailing is failing the entire community. Contact with the criminal justice system entrenches disadvantage across generations, with devastating impact on employment prospects, education, and health outcomes.

“Over decades, a lot of taxpayer dollars have been spent supporting a system that simply doesn’t reduce crime and now is the time to look at innovative and new ways of doing things.

“The first thing we need to do differently is to take seriously the importance of Aboriginal-led approaches and that is the starting place for the Foundation in this new partnership.”

Ms Penrose also welcomed the Aboriginal Justice Agreement as a shared vision of reducing reoffending and imprisonment rates of Aboriginal Territorians, engaging and supporting Aboriginal leadership, and improving justice responses and services to Aboriginal Territorians.

“We look forward to supporting the Agreement through this new partnership, in collaboration with Aboriginal Elders, leaders, communities and the Government.

“You can’t change things without the desire of governments to do so, and with the convergence of community and cross-party political commitment, we believe real change is possible.

“We are excited about playing a role, coming in behind Aboriginal-led organisations and with Government. We strongly support the model of the Reference Group – soon to become a Governance Group for the Agreement – and our funding will be directed at community-led initiatives.”

David Woodroffe, co-Chair of the Aboriginal Justice Agreement Reference Group, said he was excited that the Foundation would bring its unique partnership approach and investment model to the table, as well as its experience of supporting community-based partners to effect change.

“We know from all the research that if you keep a young person away from prison, they stand a much better chance in life,” he said. “Prison is much more than a sentence for many young people.

“We look forward to working with the Paul Ramsay Foundation in this partnership to build a better criminal justice system which reduces recidivism and diverts people away from prison, strengthening families and communities.”

Hon Selena Uibo, the Northern Territory’s Attorney-General, said today:

“The Territory Labor Government is proud to work in partnership with the Paul Ramsay Foundation to deliver better justice outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders and help break the cycle of crime and re-offending.

“The Agreement was one of the most extensive processes undertaken by an NT Government agency – it is the result of more than 160 consultations in 120 Territory communities.

“We have invested $4.52 million to implement actions in the first year of the Aboriginal Justice Agreement which will continue to roll out over the next seven years.”

Ms Penrose said the next step for the Foundation was to engage with stakeholders and she looked forward to the official Aboriginal Justice Agreement launch events in the coming weeks among other upcoming opportunities for engagement.

“We don’t go into things with pre-set views, so we will be developing this work with the community and we’ll have more to say about the specifics of our funding commitment once that hard work of collaboration and engagement is further advanced.”

About the Paul Ramsay Foundation

The late Paul Ramsay AO established the Paul Ramsay Foundation in 2006 and, after his death in 2014, left the majority of his estate to continue his philanthropy for generations to come.

We seek to identify and partner with individuals, communities and organisations working to break cycles of disadvantage and create an Australia where people can realise their potential.

Media Contact: Pia Akerman, 0412 346 746