Social Justice and the Law

Reichstein Foundation is focused on:

  • Support for the empowerment of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the Australian Constitution
  • Reducing the level of Indigenous incarceration
  • Policy reforms and advocacy to end racial profiling by Victoria Police and to encourage more inclusive and human rights focused policing
  • A significant project to impact detention policy in Victoria, either focused on prison growth; pathways for ex-offenders; or a cohort of the prison population such as youth.

In this area of funding, we develop strategic projects through partners in the field and in the philanthropic sector, rather than public grant rounds.

Without Suspicion- Flemington Kensington Community Legal Centre
In 2013 African Australian young people settled an important Race Discrimination case with Victoria Police in the Federal Court. The case highlighted systemic racism within the Victorian police force including racial profiling of African Australians. Data shows that police have stopped African Australian young people in the Flemington and North Melbourne area 2.5 times more than other groups despite them having a lower crime rate. There is a high risk of systemic breakdown in trust and relationships between some communities and the Victoria Police.

Police in the US (especially New York City) and the UK have been under pressure over the practice of ‘racial profiling’ through targeted ‘stop and search’ activities. The practice causes alienation and disengagement. It leads to social exclusion and generates high levels of distrust. It undermines confidence in policing.

As part of the Federal Court case settlement, and a subsequent enquiry undertaken by the Victoria Police, a series of sweeping reforms will ensure racial profiling is recognised and addressed at a systemic level.Significant changes are on the table, including:

o   Australia’s first trial of stop and search receipting,
o   A data collection and monitoring program
o   Policy reforms concerning police field contacts, and
o   Substantial reform of cross cultural training provided within Victoria Police.

Overall, Victoria Police’s response to the public review of its field contact and cross cultural education policies is indicative of a genuine intention to address racism and racial profiling.

The statement by Victoria Police includes many crucial acknowledgements and commitments that, if properly implemented, could see a genuine reduction in racism and racial profiling by Victoria Police members as well as increasing the overall fairness of and human rights compliance by police members.

These reforms are an acknowledgement of the problems in existing policing and the need for reform. The quality of work and persistence of the team is impressive and the outcomes to date give us hope for better policing and stronger, more inclusive policy and approaches into the future.

The Reichstein Foundation, with other philanthropic partners and Arnold Bloch Leibler, has supported the Flemington Kensington Community Legal Centre in this matter since 2012.

There is plenty to do to entrench more inclusive and human rights focused policing in Victoria but the crucial first steps have been taken.

For more information please contact: Anthony Kelly, Executive Officer, Flemington and Kensington Community Legal Centre, (03) 9376-4355

See also the Police Accountability website, a project of the FKCLC, which provides resources for victims, community members, advocates, media and researchers on police accountability law.

Human Rights Law Centre – Indigenous Rights Unit

The over-incarceration of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people is profound and growing. In 2012 the Reichstein Foundation supported the establishment of the Indigenous Rights Unit (IRU) at the Human Rights Law Centre. The IRU works closely with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations, leaders and communities to promote and protect the human rights of Indigenous peoples. It provides legal advice, support and advocacy to a range of Indigenous organisations, families and individuals dealing with deaths in custody cases, and challenging discriminatory laws and policies. The IRU has played a key role in forging a National Justice Coalition, which is working to develop a coordinated, national campaign to draw attention to the importance of reducing over-incarceration.

Incarceration of Indigenous women spikes in past year

Justice targets needed to reduce indigenous disadvantage

Human Rights Law Centre – Protecting Australia’s Democratic Safeguards

The Human Rights Law Centre (HRLC) has identified a disturbing trend of ”governments at national and state level steadily chipping away at free speech, a free press, peaceful assembly, open government and the rule of law – some of the foundations of our democracy”. The Foundation is supporting HRLC to increase public awareness of this trend through a report, media launch, and follow on activities.

It’s time to safeguard our democracy

Jesuit Social Services – Youth Justice Advocacy Campaign

In collaboration with other service providers and advocates, Jesuit Social Services is conducting a smart and robust engagement campaign aimed at improving government policy approaches and public perception on youth justice issues. Alternatives to the current paradigm promise both better community safety and a more human rights-based regime in relation to youth offending.

See more on their campaign here: #WorthASecondChance