Thursday, 21 March 2024

Questions without notice and ministers statements

Drug Courts


Drug Courts

David ETTERSHANK (Western Metropolitan) (12:08): (478) My question is to the Attorney-General. It has long been established that therapeutic courts such as Drug Courts provide better outcomes for vulnerable and disadvantaged people. As the name suggests, these courts utilise therapeutic programs that seek to address the underlying causes of crime and patterns of reoffending, which have been effective in reducing recidivism. Independent evaluation has also shown them to be cost effective, particularly compared to the cost of incarceration. The Wyndham law courts in my region are due to open next year. The government committed in the 2021 budget to a range of therapeutic and specialist courts to service the outer Western Metro Region. Can the Attorney-General confirm that all of the planned therapeutic lists, including the Drug Court and the family drug treatment court, will be available when the Wyndham courts open?

Jaclyn SYMES (Northern Victoria – Attorney-General, Minister for Emergency Services) (12:09): Thank you, Mr Ettershank, for your question. I concur: Drug Courts are an amazing asset for the Victorian community in relation to dealing with underlying causes of crime. I was fortunate to be involved in the development of them originally, having travelled to the US to see the system over there and bring it back with the then Attorney-General in relation to implementation here. I love visiting Drug Courts; everyone that works in them is very passionate about ensuring that they are helping the people that are accessing or are part of the program. I have certainly met with offenders who have graduated from these programs. If I had infinite resources, I would put them all around the state, because they have fantastic outcomes, and you have indicated an evaluation that demonstrates the value of them. I am not in a position to give firm commitments around exactly the timing in relation to Wyndham and the provision of services, but it is definitely designed to accommodate a range of therapeutic programs in that court.

David ETTERSHANK (Western Metropolitan) (12:10): I thank the Attorney-General for her response. I guess I am going to prod the hypothetical a little, if I may. The new Wyndham court precinct will serve as a catchment of up to 800,000 people, making it the second-biggest court complex in the state. There is a particular need for Drug Courts at Wyndham, as most of the suburbs within the catchment area do not fall within the postcodes of the other Drug Courts, and that is clearly how it is demarcated. If the government is unwilling or unsure as to whether or not it will fund these courts, how does the government intend to meet its commitment to crime prevention and community safety through therapeutic approaches that target drug-related offending?

The PRESIDENT: You did prod the hypothetical, but I think the minister is prepared to answer.

Jaclyn SYMES (Northern Victoria – Attorney-General, Minister for Emergency Services) (12:11): Yes, I am. You are in effect trying to make a presumption, which I have not confirmed in any way, shape or form. Because I have not been able to do the opposite, that does not mean that it makes it true of what you have been saying.

When it comes to courts, there is a big role for CSV in relation to infrastructure programs and what goes into courts. I meet with the Chief Magistrate regularly – the Magistrates’ Court will be the predominant landlord, effectively – and what we are really keen to have are not just therapeutic courts but also services. VLA have got a provision. I can give you a bit of an outline of all of the services that we are trying to fit into Wyndham. You should not have to go there just because you have got a court matter; we want a range of services that respond to the community needs. If you have seen the size of it, we have got a fair bit of room to fit a lot of people in and provide a really good service responding directly to the needs of the western suburbs.