2023 presents significant opportunities to make meaningful advances in social justice. Here are some of the ways we will be using our expertise in policy and law reform – with targeted advocacy in the courts, media and parliaments – to help make change happen.
Raising the age of criminal responsibility
PIAC continues to coordinate the NSW campaign to raise the age of criminal responsibility from 10 to 14. We anticipate a renewed opportunity to engage with government on this critical reform after the NSW state election in March.
The NT Government has already passed legislation to raise the age to 12, while the ACT Government has committed to raise the age from 10 to 12 this year, and to 14 by 2025.
While all state Attorneys-General have supported development of a proposal to increase the minimum age from 10 to 12, the NSW Government has not yet committed to a path for reform.
We are ramping up our efforts with a dedicated Raise the Age Campaign Manager and we will work strategically with our campaign partners to galvanise community support for changing our law: to stop harming children and make our community safer and stronger.
A fair and efficient upgrade to the NSW grid
The NSW Electricity Infrastructure Roadmap coordinates critical investment in energy transmission, renewable generation, storage and infrastructure. It supports action on climate change by making the NSW energy system more efficient, reliable and sustainable.
PIAC welcomes the goals of the Roadmap. But the current funding model leaves NSW households footing too much of the bill, while many of the large companies receiving the biggest benefits from the upgrades are let off the hook.
Our Energy and Water Consumers’ Advocacy Program (EWCAP) is rolling out a targeted advocacy campaign for a fairer distribution of costs, to reduce the pressure of rising energy costs on NSW households.
Supporting women at risk of homelessness
Our new Women’s Homelessness Prevention Service (WHPS) is providing trauma-informed legal help to women, for issues that cause or exacerbate homelessness and housing insecurity.
WHPS includes a specialised criminal legal service that provides free legal advice and representation to women charged with criminal offences, as interaction with the criminal justice system often coincides with increased risk of homelessness. Women using the service can also access our community support worker for non-legal support.
Older women continue to be the fastest-growing group experiencing homelessness in Australia and are bearing the brunt of an unfair system. Poverty and family and domestic violence are the main causes of homelessness for women.
We will use the experiences of our clients and data gathered through WHPS to advocate for systemic reform that helps all women access a safe a secure home.
Seizing opportunities to improve the NDIS
Last year, decision-makers promised meaningful reform of the NDIS, so it can live up to its intent and provide necessary support to people with disability. This year, we will work with partner organisations to hold government and the National Disability Insurance Agency to those promises.
We have already seen some movement on our practical recommendations to make the NDIA more user-focused and transparent: for example, our recommendation to publish settlement outcomes so participants in similar circumstances can benefit from that information. We will continue to work constructively to achieve more substantial reforms.
PIAC is actively engaged with the NDIS Review and will contribute to up-coming consultations on structural reforms to the external review process, aiming to make the appeals system fairer.
Meanwhile, our test cases in the Administrative Appeals Tribunal will continue to demonstrate how unfair policies and practices are denying people with disability the supports they need, with the outcomes driving further advocacy on systemic reform.
Supporting truth telling and a Voice for First Nations Australians
We will soon launch our Towards Truth website, which gives access to a wealth of stories and documents demonstrating how laws and policies have affected First Nations people since colonisation.
Our collaborative project with the UNSW Indigenous Law Centre will empower First Nations-led truth-telling, and support communities, advocates and researchers to expose historic injustices.
We are also supporting the campaign for a Voice to Parliament, as the faiure to recognise our First Nations people in the Australian Consitution is an ongoing injustice. Now is the time to stand with First Nations people to pass this modest and fair reform.
We are taking these actions in response to the Uluru Statement from the Heart and its invitation to walk with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in a movement of the Australian people for a better future.