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The first major justice reinvestment project in Australia is happening in Bourke, a small town in north-west NSW. Maranguka is the first Aboriginal-led place-based model of justice reinvestment in Australia, based in Bourke in north-west NSW. Maranguka is a collaboration between the Bourke Tribal Council, Just Reinvest NSW and the community of Bourke. Through this collaboration, Maranguka has taken a ‘life-course’ approach, targeting issues likely to push Aboriginal people into the justice system that arise from a child’s earliest years into adulthood.

Maranguka, meaning ‘caring for others’ in Ngemba language, is a model of Indigenous self-governance which empowers the Aboriginal community to coordinate the right mix and timing of services through an Aboriginal community owned and led, multi-disciplinary team working in partnership with relevant government and non-government agencies. Underpinning the work of Maranguka, is the Growing them up Safe, Smart and Strong strategy, developed by the local community. 

“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.” – Alistair Ferguson, CEO Maranguka.

ABC Four Corners visited Bourke in 2016 to see how it was all going. Their story – BACKING BOURKE can be viewed here

Bourke is a remote town located 800km northwest of Sydney, situated on the Darling River. The town’s location forms part of a traditional boundary area for the Ngemba, Murrawarri, Budgiti and Barkinji Tribal Groups. As a result of past government Aboriginal specific policies such as forced relocations and removals in the 1920s, today there are 21 different Tribal Groups living in Bourke. There are 2,465 people living in the Bourke Shire of which 762 people are Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander (approximately 30.9%). The median age of Bourke’s Indigenous population is 25 years, approximately 33.7% of which are children aged 0 to 14 years and 4.7% are aged 65 years or over. The Maranguka Justice Reinvestment project emerged as Bourke was concerned about the number of Aboriginal families experiencing high levels of social disadvantage and rising crime. Bourke has worked for many years to develop a model for improving outcomes and creating better coordinated support for vulnerable families and children through the true empowerment of the local Aboriginal community


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 are in the process of implementing, in partnership with local service providers, 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 has been handed over to community members through community conversations held by local facilitators, and community feedback was recorded and fed back to the Bourke Tribal Council. This feedback, together with the data, informed the development of goals, measures and strategies for the Maranguka Justice Reinvestment Project reflected in the document Growing our Kids Up Safe, Smart and Strong, was developed by the Bourke Tribal Council.

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.

Key elements of justice reinvestment include the need for it to be place-based, data-driven, supported by a centralised supporting body, and with fiscally sound and targeted measures.

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Here you can discover the ways of learning about and engaging with JR that will best suit your community and the circumstances that you find are affecting Aboriginal People’s contact with the criminal justice system, and what you can do about it.

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