Monthly Archives: September 2019

By Stuart Ross, University of Melbourne

Every two years, the Productivity Commission releases a report on the level of Indigenous disadvantage in Australia.


These reports make for fairly bleak reading: most indicators show no change, and in some areas the “gap” between Indigenous and non-Indigenous outcomes continues to grow. Indigenous imprisonment is one such area.

From 2000 to 2010, the Indigenous imprisonment rate increased by 52%, while non-Indigenous rates have hardly changed.

This will come as no surprise to anyone involved with Australian justice systems. Indigenous over-representation at all stages of the justice process first made headlines during the Deaths in Custody Royal Commission in the early 1990s and has been flagged as a serious problem in report after report in the decades since then.

The most recent contribution to this depressing debate is Unfinished Business: Koori Women and the Justice System, released by the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission on Monday. The report shows Koori women are the fastest-growing group in the Victorian prison population and are imprisoned at a higher rate than non-Koori women and Koori men.

According to the report, this over-representation in arrest, conviction and imprisonment is driven by family violence and sexual abuse, inter-generational trauma, mental illness, drug and alcohol abuse and, tragically, high rates of re-imprisonment.

The authors call for the development of effective diversionary options for Koori women, arguing that the existing suite of programs available to offenders are neither culturally or gender appropriate. Importantly, the report doesn’t stop with a “more should be done” set of recommendations, but argues specifically for a residential community-based service model (the “hub”) linked to a range of case management and treatment services (the “spokes”).

But if the past two decades have taught us anything about this problem it’s that recommending solutions in the form of more and better programs doesn’t necessarily change anything. In the last year alone there have been reports addressing this issue by the Senate, the Australian Institute of Criminology, the Australian National Council on Drugs, the Law Council of Australia and a variety of academic and non-government organisations.


Juvenile Indigenous offenders have been the focus of a great deal of attention. Flickr/publik16


So why is the problem of indigenous imprisonment so intractable?

The pessimistic view is that as a country we have elected, in the last two decades, to go down a route of “penal expansionism” – imprisoning people at ever higher rates on the basis that this is justified by the improved security for the community – and that Indigenous Australians are particularly disadvantaged by this strategy.

In effect, the system-wide changes associated with the “politics of insecurity” (zero-tolerance policing, longer sentences, more restrictive bail and parole policies, targeting of repeat offenders) overwhelm any marginal changes to justice processes designed to limit their impact on Indigenous offenders. Criminology expert Chris Cunneen refers to this approach as “governing through crime” and argues that it has meant that the goal of reducing Indigenous imprisonment has become increasingly insignificant.

On a more positive note, there has been an increase in the range of diversionary programs for Indigenous people or specifically for Indigenous women. The Australian Institute of Criminology identified a range of programs available to Indigenous women offenders across Australia, and there is even larger number of programs for Indigenous male offenders.

Juvenile Indigenous offenders have been the focus of a great deal of attention and there is some evidence that diversion efforts are having an effect – Indigenous juvenile detention rates were stable from 2000 to 2006, increased in 2007 and 2008 and then declined again in 2009.

However such programs are typically relatively small scale and often suffer from inconsistent funding. A key problem is that there are few proven intervention models for Indigenous offenders and scant evaluation evidence about what forms of intervention are effective.

In the last two years, Justice Reinvestment has been promoted as a solution for Indigenous over-representation in prison. Justice Reinvestment is the idea that funding currently directed into custodial services is reinvested into education, programs and services that address the underlying causes of crime, and that this investment is justified by the savings derived from lower crime and imprisonment rates.

The United States is widely regarded as the exemplar of penal expansionism. But in August, attorney-general Eric Holder called for a fundamental change in approach, arguing that “we cannot simply prosecute or incarcerate our way to becoming a safer nation”, and citing Justice Reinvestment as the vehicle for reform.

The social and institutional problems the US faces as a result of its decades-long commitment to penal expansionism are no less significant than the ones that Australia faces. If they can change, so can we.

Stuart Ross was a former supervisor of Simone Gristwood, a co-author of Unfinished Business.

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  • Posted on 12. September 2019
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Sam Burgess is not a grubby player, insists teammate Roy Asotasi, after the South Sydney star accepted a two-match NRL ban for an alleged “squirrel grip”.


England international Burgess on Tuesday opted to take the early guilty plea on a contrary conduct charge stemming from an incident which left Melbourne centre Will Chambers writhing around the AAMI Stadium turf on Friday night.

There was widespread speculation that Burgess had squeezed Chambers’ testicles while making a tackle after video footage of the incident appeared on social media over the weekend.

Burgess’ loading from four previous judiciary matters means he will miss two blockbuster home games for the second-placed Rabbitohs – against third-placed Manly on Friday night and fifth-placed Canterbury the following weekend.

If Burgess had contested the charge and lost, he would still have missed two matches.

After seeing vision of the tackle, Rabbitohs veteran Asotasi admitted on Tuesday he thought Burgess may have had a case to answer but he was quick to defend his teammate.

“A lot of people out there are saying that Sam’s a grub,” Asotasi said on Tuesday.

“It’s not what Sammy is as a person. He goes out and plays hard and sometimes things happen.”

Asotasi was unaware of the incident until he saw footage after training on Monday.

“I knew something had happened at the time but didn’t really pay attention to it. But then I saw it and thought `He could be in a bit of trouble here’,” he said.

The loss of the 24-year-old is a big blow for the Rabbitohs, who’ve lost three of their last four matches to slip off the top of the ladder.

However they are expected to get star fullback Greg Inglis back from injury this week for his first match since the third State of Origin game.

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The Miami Heat will open their title defence against the Chicago Bulls on October 29 in the expected return of Derrick Rose, with an all-Los Angeles match-up later that night in the Lakers’ first game without Dwight Howard and the Clippers’ first with Doc Rivers.


The NBA’s 2013-14 schedule, released on Tuesday, also features a potential LeBron James-Kobe Bryant duel on Christmas in Los Angeles, right after scoring stars Carmelo Anthony and Kevin Durant match up across the country in New York.

Howard’s first visit to the Lakers since leaving for Houston as a free agent doesn’t come until February 19, giving Bryant plenty of time to get back to full strength from his torn Achilles’ tendon near the end of last season.

The Indiana Pacers host the Orlando Magic in the opening game of the season, about the time the Heat are holding another championship ring ceremony. Then Miami will try to give Rose a rough welcome back in what’s likely to be his first NBA game since tearing his knee in the opening game of the 2012 playoffs.

Most teams open on October 30. Two nights later, the Heat will serve as the opponent for the new-look Brooklyn Nets’ first home game since acquiring Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce from Boston.

That duo, which helped lead the Celtics to the 2008 NBA championship, will make its emotional return to Boston on January 26. Rivers will coach his first game back there on December 11 – one night after the Celtics see Garnett and Pierce for the first time in Brooklyn. Rivers will then renew acquaintances with his two star players on December 12 at Barclays Center.

Other highlights of the schedule, which was released during an NBA TV special program:

-The Heat will host the Spurs on January 26 in their first meeting since they edged San Antonio in Game 7 of the NBA Finals. The teams also meet in Texas on March 6.

-The marquee Christmas Day schedule features five games: Chicago at Brooklyn, Oklahoma City at New York, Miami at the Lakers, Houston at San Antonio, and the Clippers at Golden State.

– No. 1 pick Anthony Bennett could make his NBA debut at home when Cleveland hosts Brooklyn on Oct. 30.

-The Nets have a three-game road trip in three different countries from January 11-20. They open at Toronto, travel to London to face the Atlanta Hawks on January 16 in the O2 Arena, and then return to New York to visit the rival Knicks in a Dr. Martin Luther King Day matinee.

-San Antonio and Minnesota play December 4 in Mexico City.

The regular season ends April 16. The All-Star game is Feb. 16 in New Orleans.

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The 29-year-old Woodland, who earlier this month won the Reno-Tahoe Open for his first PGA Tour title, was four under par for the round and 13-under for the tournament, the opening event in the FedExCup playoffs.


Little known Kevin Chappell also used a blistering hot spell to leap up the leaderboard, making seven birdies in an eight-hole stretch to reach 10 under par with two holes to play in his round.

Moving Day lived up to its name in Saturday’s third round after Matt Kuchar claimed a two-shot lead in completing a second round 65 in an early morning return along with 39 other players after play was suspended on Friday due to failing light.

Bogeys at the third and seventh holes dropped Kuchar to nine under par, four shots off the pace.

Webb Simpson, the 2012 U.S. Open champion who had been tied for second with Woodland at the halfway mark, bogeyed the sixth and eighth to fall into a tie for fourth on eight-under with fellow American Rickie Fowler.

Fowler had used an eagle at the par-five sixth to move into a temporary share of the lead at 10-under but double-bogeyed the ninth after an errant tee shot.

World number one Tiger Woods also moved in the wrong direction. The FedExCup points leader began the round at six under par and birdied the first to reach seven-under, but three bogeys in a five-hole stretch left him five-under through 12.

Tied for sixth at seven under par, six behind Woodland, were a group of seven including U.S. Open winner Justin Rose (through 12 holes) and fellow Englishman David Lynn (12), former Masters champion Charl Schwartzel of South Africa (11), Australian Aaron Baddeley (15) and Spain’s Sergio Garcia (11).

They were joined by Americans Jim Furyk (13) and 20-year-old Jordan Spieth (15).

Players teed off in threesomes off both nines for the third round at the scenic course waterside course with views of the Statue of Liberty and the Manhattan skyline.

(Reporting by Larry Fine, Editing by Gene Cherry)

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For those readers who enjoy blood sports, Newt Gingrich’s emphatic victory in the South Carolina Republican Primary should be welcomed.


Gingrich not only won the support of Republicans in South Carolina, he won with over 40 per cent of the vote. Huge. Mitt Romney, the supposed sure thing, limped across the line humiliated in collecting only 27 per cent of the vote.

This shows South Carolina’s Republicans don’t care for several things. They don’t care about Gingrich’s infidelities, they don’t care about ethics violations that saw him flung from the Senate, they don’t care about his connections to lobby groups and profiteering from companies that played a role in the economic collapse.

They also don’t care much about Romney.

News last week that Rick Santorum had actually won Iowa – and not Romney – was also a major blow to Romney’s ambition. The supposed favourite is now not universally liked – even by Republicans.

The race is now genuinely wide open and will provoke brutal blood letting before the party decides which candidate it considers – in its wisdom – the best to beat President Obama.

Remember him?

So what are the candidates to do? Certainly not discuss their plans for a potential Presidency or flag solutions to fix the economy. Beside general rhetoric about small government, low taxes, and moral values, the candidates have taken a similar path – beat the other guys over the head. Viciously and angrily.

Here’s Mitt Romney’s latest attack ad on Newt Gingrich. Theme: “After being sanctioned for ethics violations and resigning in disgrace, Newt Gingrich cashed in as a D.C. insider.”

Here’s an attack on Newt Gingrich from Ron Paul supporters. Theme: Gingrich is dangerous and must not win Florida.

Here’s Newt Gingrich attacking Romney for apparently being pro-abortion. Theme: Romney can’t be trusted.

Romney gets it from Rick Santorum too. Theme: If you vote for Mitt, you’re a sheep endorsing what the “establishment” wants. Oh, and by the way, did you know Romney’s for abortion (he’s not)?

Here’s another ad attacking Newt Gingrich funded by Mitt Romney supporters, a so-called “Political Action Group” called Restore Our Future.

It’s important to note that these guys are all supposed to be on the same team. The battle against President Obama has yet to begin. If any candidate is still alive by then.

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