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Justice reinvestment in Bourke

The first justice reinvestment project in Australia is happening in Bourke, a small town in north-west NSW.

Since 2013, Just Reinvest NSW has been working in partnership with Maranguka to develop a justice reinvestment framework for Bourke.

The first stage of the justice reinvestment project has focused on building trust between community and service providers, identifying community priorities and circuit breakers, and data collection.

Regular meetings have been held with Bourke community members and visiting and/or local representatives from most government departments. Government attendance and ongoing commitment towards exploring alternative means of service delivery during this time has gone a long way towards building a better relationship between community members and the government. It is looking more and more like a partnership.

The local community has spent a lot of time thinking about how to reduce offending and make the community safer. They have identified and the government is now implementing a number of cross-sector initiatives or ‘circuit breakers’ to achieve this, including three justice circuit breakers addressing breaches of bail, outstanding warrants and the need for a learner driver program in Bourke.

Data has been collected to tell a very big story about a young person’s passage through the criminal justice system in Bourke and how the community is fairing in terms of offending, diversion, bail, sentencing and punishment, and re-offending rates. Data has also been collected on the community’s outcomes in early life, education, employment, housing, healthcare, child safety, and health outcomes including mental health and drugs and alcohol. The data collected has been fed back to community members through community conversations held by local facilitators, and community feedback recorded has been fed back into the Just Reinvest NSW / Maranguka team.

A watertight case as to why justice reinvestment should be implemented in Bourke to get better outcomes for their children and young people will be presented to the NSW government in May 2016.

Background to the project

Over $2 million each year is spent locking up children and young people in Bourke.

Local community members have had enough.

“Kids were being taken away. Too many of my community were being locked up. Families were being shattered, again and again,” says Alistair Ferguson, locally born and bred and now overseeing the justice reinvestment project in Bourke. “And this was happening despite the huge amount of money government was channelling through the large number of service organisations in this town.”

“So we started talking together. We decided that a new way of thinking and doing things needed to be developed that helped our children. We decided it was time for our community to move beyond the existing service delivery model,’ says Alistair, ‘a model which had clearly failed.’

“We developed the Maranguka proposal with a clear focus on creating better coordinated support to vulnerable families and children in Bourke through community-led teams working in partnership with existing service providers, so that together we could look at what’s happening in our town and why Aboriginal disadvantage was not improving, and together we could build a new accountability framework which wouldn’t let our kids slip through.”

“And then we heard about justice reinvestment and it was like all the stars suddenly aligned,” said Alistair.

In 2012, the local community invited Just Reinvest NSW to assist in creating a justice reinvestment framework for Bourke. They wanted to change the way government provided services to the community and to better facilitate pathways for vulnerable children and families.

Project Timeline


Just Reinvest NSW, the Bourke Aboriginal Community Working Party and the Australian Human Rights Commission worked together to develop a proposal for implementing justice reinvestment in the community of Bourke, in north-west NSW. This proposal was distributed to philanthropic, corporate and government sectors to ignite support for a different way of doing things.


Justice reinvestment began in Bourke in March 2014, made possible through substantial funding provided by Dusseldorp Forum and the Vincent Fairfax Foundation, with in-kind support provided by the Australian government, the NSW government, and various corporate bodies.The project was envisaged to run for two years through the data collection phase, with evidence of the Project impact being used to present a compelling, evidence-based case for State government to divert funds away from incarceration and into prevention, diversion and early intervention programs in Bourke.The Just Reinvest NSW / Maranguka Project Team was formed with the over-arching aim of convincing all tiers of government to shift policy and spending away from incarceration – and from services not effectively being utilised in the community – to be reinvested into programs which address the underlying causes of youth crime and meet community need.Several community-led meetings occurred which were well attended by representatives from the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, the NSW Department of Premier and Cabinet, nearly all Departmental heads and senior managers, and peak Government and non-government organisations who have all committed to supporting and participating actively in the Maranguka Justice Reinvestment Project.

2014 to 2016

Just Reinvest NSW has been working in partnership with Maranguka to develop a justice reinvestment framework for Bourke, including the implementation of the first key phase of that framework. Project Milestones include:

  1. Backbone Organisation team is fully recruited and operational in Bourke
  2. One-on-one and community meetings held with key leaders and influencers from all parts of the system: government (all levels); non-profit and philanthropy; business; citizens.
  3. Cross-sector governance group established and inducted with clear terms of reference
  4. Relevant data points collected and analysed with data gaps identified.
  5. Community conversations around the data in order to inform community and obtain feedback, and gather key themes and goals.
  6. System mapped
  7. Strategies and infrastructure for continuous communication agreed and put in place
  8. High level common agenda and shared measures agreed in principle, subject to ongoing data and research
  9. International scan of best evidence responses to achieve common agenda and shared measures
  10. Agreement on approach to achieve common agenda and shared measures
  11. Finalisation and agreement of common agenda, common approach and shared measures
  12. Plan drafted to develop and leverage the existing system to implement the common agenda, common approach and shared measures
  13. Detailed costs of implementation developed, including:
    • Program design and delivery
    • Capacity development
    • A backbone organisation’s functions, and
    • A data sharing and reporting platform.
  14. Detailed economic model of costs saved over a 5 – 10 year period as a result of effective implementation
  15. A detailed plan tabled based on the:
    • Common agenda
    • Common evidence-based approach
    • Shared measures
    • Backbone functions/organisation
    • Costs of implementation
    • Costs of savings generated
  16. Trial and Test: implementation of plan
  17. The Reinvestment: ongoing use of savings to fund long-term implementation of the plan in Bourke past the set-up and trial run phases. Application of lessons learned and new found and applied relationship and consultative mechanisms that lead to better use of funds and social capital, better relationships with and inclusion of youth in decision making and the creation of diversionary infrastructure that benefits the whole community, Aboriginal and Non-Aboriginal alike.


Just Reinvest NSW will present a watertight case to government in May 2016 to demonstrate that justice reinvestment offers a real solution to Australian communities seeking to tackle problems around offending and incarceration, while at the same time creating alternate pathways for young people.

Justice reinvestment with a collective impact framework in Bourke

The justice reinvestment project in Bourke is being designed and delivered using a collective impact approach.

Collective impact is the commitment of a group of actors from different sectors to a common agenda for solving a complex social problem. The underlying premise of collective impact is that alone, no single individual or organisation can create large-scale, lasting social change. “Silver bullet” solutions to systemic social problems do not exist; they cannot be solved by simply scaling or replicating one organisation or program. Strong organisations are necessary but not sufficient for large-scale social change.

Key elements of justice reinvestment include the need for it to be place-based, data-driven, supported by a centralised strategic body, and with fiscally sound and targeted measures. What collective impact offers is a more detailed roadmap, which will be critical in developing what we call ‘the Australianisation of justice reinvestment’. Using this roadmap, cost savings are able to be realised not only through the diversion of resources from Corrective Services and Juvenile Justice, but through the realignment of existing programs and services to reduce duplication and increase efficiency. These cost savings will then kick-start the justice reinvestment approach. The resulting savings to the Corrective Services and Juvenile Justice budgets will be the basis of its continuation.

Through applying the Collective Impact framework, the following elements are in development in Bourke:

  • A whole-of-community and whole-of-government common agenda to reduce youth crime and increase community safety
  • Shared measures for change based on real-time data
  • A common approach, based on best evidence, for creating change in the shared measures and developing the will and capability within the system to implement these responses
  • A backbone organisation to perform the necessary functions of facilitating the collaboration, continuously communicating and tracking change in the shared measures.
  • A clear financial picture of the cost of implementation and the costs saved through effective implementation.
    While these activities may broadly be described as planning, they will create change in and of themselves.

The development of a common agenda, the access to and interaction with data, the agreement to a common approach based on data and evidence, the intentional lift in capacity, and the detailed costings, will all influence the operation and alignment of the system and its leadership in Bourke.

Maranguka Justice Reinvestment Project Team

The Maranguka Justice Reinvestment Project has assembled a talented and committed core team consisting of:

  • Alistair Ferguson, Executive Officer in Community Development, based in Bourke over the two-year project period. The position of Executive Officer is funded by the Vincent Fairfax Family Foundation and the Dusseldorp Forum.
  • Sarah Hopkins, Project Coordinator: The project is being coordinated by Sarah who is Chair of Just Reinvest NSW and managing solicitor at Aboriginal Legal Service (NSW/ACT).
  • Vivianne Prince, Project Officer: A position on the ground in Bourke to assist Alistair Ferguson to deliver Project outcomes funded by St Vincent de Paul Society Foundation for Social Innovation.
  • Cath Brokenborough, Facilitator: Lend Lease is releasing Cath to fill the role of external facilitator, to be based in Bourke three days per month.
  • Data Manager: Aboriginal Affairs NSW provided initial resources for a data manager to assist in the collection and collation of data on Bourke.
  • Economic Modelling Team: KPMG will lead the work of costing the implementation of justice reinvestment in Bourke together with economic modelling of the cost savings for government.
  • Kerry Graham, Consultant: Kerry has agreed to provide critical advice on the collective impact framework.

The Project team is also supported by: