The Victorian Greens have welcomed a government bill decriminalising public drunkenness and say it follows decades of campaigning by Aboriginal communities and advocates.
For too long the Andrews Labor Government has locked up Aboriginal people at a rate more than ten times higher than for other Victorians and this reform is a small step towards reversing that.
However, the Greens say that it’s not enough for the government to stop there, given the reform will only keep a small number of people out of prison.
To significantly reduce the over-imprisonment of Aboriginal people in Victoria the government must loosen the bail laws it tightened in both 2017 and 2018.
By tightening these laws the government has allowed countless disadvantaged people to be locked up for minor offences while on bail.
Victorian Greens spokesperson for justice, Dr Tim Read, said if the government was serious about ending the over-imprisonment of Aboriginal communities, it needed to address the role it has played in the problem.
Quotes attributable to Victorian Greens spokesperson for justice, Dr Tim Read:
“The Greens welcome this reform wholeheartedly. For years this government has locked up Aboriginal people at more than ten times the rate of other Victorians and this reform is a small step toward reversing that.
“It shouldn’t have taken thirty years and many deaths for this 1991 Royal Commission recommendation to become law, but it’s better late than never.
“Decriminalising public drunkenness is the first step towards ending the over-incarceration of Aboriginal people in our prisons but it’s definitely not the last.
“The reality is that this reform will actually only keep a few people out of prison. That’s why we need to change the bail laws the Andrews Government tightened in 2017 and 2018 to ensure low-risk offenders aren’t unnecessarily locked up to wait for their court date.
“If the Government really wants to reduce the over-imprisonment of Aboriginal communities, it needs to address the role it has played in the problem.”