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Investing to address causes of crime, not the consequences

LAST week was a big week in Canberra. While much of the focus was on Julia Gillard's work for the Australian Workers' Union in the mid 1990s, the Parliament also considered laws for the national disability insurance scheme, education funding recommended by the Gonski review, pokie reform, the Murray-Darling basin plan, and recognising indigenous Australians in our Constitution.

But another important issue was considered by our politicians; one that may have far-reaching implications for our justice system and more broadly across the community, and one that received hardly any attention amidst the cacophony of the last sitting week of Parliament - the Senate began to consider a new policy of "justice reinvestment".

How doctors and lawyers can help vulnerable patients

By James Farrell, Deakin University and Peter Noble, The Conversation

Medical-legal partnerships have broken down the barriers to accessible legal services for people experiencing health issues in the United States. Such programs demonstrate the health benefits of effective legal advocacy on behalf of patients and Australia could learn from this model to improve access to justice and deliver better health outcomes.

Community legal centres: revolutionaries, or going around in circles?

Once again, activist lawyers from across Australia are coming together at the National Conference of Community Legal Centres (#naclc12). It’s a terrific opportunity to reflect on the work of Community Legal Centres (CLCs), and to identify challenges and opportunities.

Security, peace, dignity? The role of Victorian human rights laws

Phil* became homeless after his partner died and his house was repossessed.  He cycled through shelters and crisis accommodation, dangerous rooming houses, and the couches of friends and families.

After several months, Phil hit the jackpot and was accepted into transitional housing.  As the name suggests, transitional housing is short- to medium-term housing to assist people transition from homelessness into long-term housing.

Phil was excited to move into the house.  On the day he moved in, he was handed a lease, a set of keys and a 120-day eviction notice.  ‘It’s just how we ensure that we can evict you when we need to,’ explained his housing worker.

Pillowtalk and evidence: High Court rejects privilege against spousal incrimination

In ACC v Stoddart,[1] the High Court recently held that there is no common law privilege against incriminating one’s spouse, which had been thought to exist for several centuries. What impact will this decision have?

Forget your coins, we want change: begging should not be a crime

The criminal offence of begging should be abolished.

Criminalising begging is tantamount to criminalising poverty. It perpetuates, rather than alleviates, the marginalisation and disadvantage experienced by people who beg. It also violates the fundamental human rights of some of the most vulnerable in our society.

Improved justice the job facing Roxon

While much has been made of the fact that Nicola Roxon is our first female attorney-general, celebrations will be short-lived as Roxon faces significant tests in this new role.

Australia needs a rights-based homelessness act

Background

The Federal Government’s White Paper on Homelessness, The Road Home: A National Approach to Reducing Homelessness (White Paper), proposed the introduction of new legislation that would “underpin the national response to homelessness, setting standards to deliver the best quality services possible”.

In June 2009, the Minister for Housing referred the inquiry into homelessness legislation to the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Family, Community, Housing and Youth (Committee). The Committee’s terms of reference were to inquire into and report on the content of homelessness legislation.

Another test for Australia-Indonesia relations

The Australian Federal Police announcement that it will investigate charges of war crimes against perpetrators of the murder of five Australian based journalists in the East Timorese town of Balibo in 1975 has put a legal cat among the diplomatic pigeons. Already senior Indonesian politicians have objected, saying they will not cooperate with such an investigation, while the Australian government and department of Foreign Affairs and Trade is going into a now well practiced mode of damage control.

The Australian government, including PM Rudd and Foreign Minister Smith, have predictably – and correctly - said that the matter is a judicial one that does not involve political intervention. Indonesia’s President Yudhoyono is likely to say much the same, although a government spokesman has already reacted with some hostility.

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