New approach recommended to tackle reoffending in remote Aboriginal communities

NWRH and JCU combine with Aboriginal communities to aid in Breaking the Cycle

New research into crime in remote Aboriginal communities has recommended a different approach to reduce reoffending rates.

The Federal Government’s “Breaking the Cycle” Initiative has funded a partnership between North and West Remote Health (NWRH) and James Cook University (JCU) and the remote Aboriginal communities of Doomadgee and Mornington Island in Queensland.New approach

The collaborative research has addressed the consequences of chronic alcohol and other drugs use in remote Aboriginal communities, and the pervasive cycle of reoffending identified as a key consequence.

Associate Professor Glenn Dawes from James Cook University said there has been limited success in reducing the problem of Indigenous over-representation in the criminal justice system. He argues that reoffending needs to be addressed at a community level.

“We need to look at other ways of breaking the cycle of reoffending, including diversionary programmes such as on country bush camps and support for former offenders when they return to their communities,” Prof. Dawes said.

“People are not rehabilitating, but in the past there has been limited research about the causal factors and consequences of reoffending in a remote context.

“The primary aims of this project were to work with the communities to identify those factors and consequences, to educate and empower all Aboriginal communities to make healthy life choices, and to design and trial the implementation of options such as on country bush camps for people returning from prison.”

Some of the key findings of the research identified from both an offender and family perspective included:

  • 70% of offenders were imprisoned on four or more occasions
  • Domestic violence linked to drug and alcohol use was the leading cause of reoffending (80%), followed by drink driving.
  • The need for reintegration plans for people when they leave prison and return to their community to address the high rates of reoffending.
  • A reinvestment in community based diversionary programs to reduce the over-representation of Indigenous people in the criminal justice system.

NWRH Chair, Phil Barwick said he was pleased to be making advancements on the research recommendations and see the “communities determined to drive innovative solutions forward”.

“Working so closely with the Mornington Island and Doomadgee communities has resulted in a real sense of ownership on this project and resources that not only feature their friends, family and community members, but deliver a powerful message on the importance of breaking the cycle,” he said.

The research further promotes and supports the benefits of a community-based co-design of services to improve health outcomes in remote Aboriginal communities.

Last month NWRH launched a resource package and documentary in Doomadgee and Mornington Island coinciding with White Ribbon Day, which flowed from the recommendations of the long-term research partnership.

NWRH and JCU look forward to sourcing partners to further develop and expand this initiative.

Details on recommendations from the Breaking the Cycle (Recidivism) program and resulting resources are available on the NWRH website at https://nwrh.com.au/corporate-information/projects/