The Cowra Justice Reinvestment project, protecting the community and providing alternatives to jail

Mick Gooda presenting at SEGRA.
Mick Gooda presenting at SEGRA.

The Cowra Justice Reinvestment project, which looks at alternatives to jail and better ways to ensure community justice, has been presented to more than 200 people at major regional conference at Charles Sturt University in Bathurst.

The Sustainable Economic Growth for Regional Australia (SEGRA) Conference is Australia's premier conference on regional issues. It aims to help regional, rural and remote Australia to source and identify the techniques, skills and issues they need to address to achieve successful economic growth and development.

Dr Jill Guthrie from The Australian National University (ANU) presented on the Justice Reinvestment exploratory research project that has been underway in Cowra over the past two years.

Dr Guthrie's talk on the progress of the research, and informed SEGRA participants of the outcomes from the Stakeholder Forum held in Cowra in May 2015. The project has considered alternatives to jail and how to better spend the around $23 million which had been spent over the past 10 years to imprisoning Cowra citizens for crimes which the Cowra community considered would be amenable to a Justice Reinvestment approach.

"The presentation prompted a lot of interest and discussion," Dr Guthrie said.

"In the same way that Cowra stakeholders were surprised by the level of spending on incarceration for what can be considered low level criminal activities, attendees at the SEGRA conference were similarly astounded by the amount of spending on locking people up for low level criminal activities - particularly young people - and how those monies could be spent in ways that value those young people and their communities."

The next steps in the research project will be a Justice Reinvestment Resolution to be considered by the Cowra Shire Council in early December and a public presentation on progress of the research project.

Cowra community members are invited to attend the public meeting as did Cowra Mayor, Councillor Bill West.

"Key policymakers and stakeholders will be been invited to attend the public meeting including the Federal member and the State members representing Cowra," he said.

"It is hoped that the evidence that the research project has provided will enable a Justice Reinvestment trial to be conducted in town."

The SEGRA conference, established in 1997, provides a unique opportunity for all sections of the Australian community, rural and urban, to explore the key issues

affecting regional, rural and remote Australia and be part of providing positive sustainable outcomes to ensure future prosperity and sustainability.

With a theme of Leading and Growing Sustainable Regions, the 2015 SEGRA conference included agendas such as environment, productive landscapes, attracting investment, emerging industries, human capital, export and trade - and the policy settings needed to ensure regional Australia's continuing role in the national agenda.

Anyone wishing to attend the public presentation should contact Dr Jill Guthrie on 02 6125 3993, or Ms Corinne Walsh at 02 6125 7573 (Australian National University), or Ms Tracey Robinson at Cowra Shire council on 6340 2000.