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Indigenous organisations receive Paul Ramsay Foundation grants to guide individuals away from the criminal justice system

Dechlan Brennan -

A new series of grants worth $9 million for community-based programs aimed at preventing people from coming into contact with the criminal justice system has been announced on Tuesday, with multiple Indigenous organisations set to receive support.

The Paul Ramsay Foundation (PRF) - a philanthropic organisation which aims to break cycles of disadvantage in Australian by investing in partnerships for potential - in partnership with the Australian Communities Foundation (ACF) and Thirriwirri, announced the funding for 11 organisations as part of the Just Futures Open Grant Round.

PRF Head of Justice and Safety, Dominique Bigras, said the grants were to support the work of small-scale operations whilst simultaneously building towards long-term change.

"Evidence shows that community-led initiatives are key to addressing the drivers of contact with the justice system, working at the grassroots level to play a critical role in breaking cycles of incarceration," she said.

The Just Futures grants is aimed at supporting early-stage and small-scale programmes and is focussed heavily on community-led initiatives.

Of these 11 grantees, six are First Nations-led and three are Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD)-led.

This falls in line with the propositions put forward by many Indigenous voices - including the Yoorrook Justice Commission and Secretariat of National Aboriginal and Islander Child Care (SNAICC) - that initiatives aimed at helping First Nations people should be placed in the hands of Indigenous-led organisations.

Ms Bigras said the grants would "grow the impact of community-led prevention and post-release programs, with a focus on young people, especially First Nations and CALD youth, systems change and advancing alternatives to custody".

Each of the organisations will either receive a medium grant of up to $500,000 or a large grant of up to $1 million, both for a period of five years.

PRF noted that it has provided grants to more than 50 organisations to reduce further contact with the justice system.

One of the grants recipients is the YSAS/Bunjilwarra Koori Youth Alcohol and Drug Healing Service, based in Hastings, Victoria.

Bunjilwarra Clinical Lead/Co-Manager, Pete Dawson, says the grants will be invaluable to helping young people who are at the facility.

"The grants will be used to build two studio-units to accommodate family members who often have to travel long distances to visit their loved-ones at Bunjilwarra," he told National Indigenous Times.

The units will also be used "flexibly" to help young people at Bunjilwarra take the next step before leaving the facility to transition back into everyday life and maximise the opportunity for rehabilitation.

He says the funding will also be used to put a cover over the basketball court to allow all-year-round access.

"When you talk about the funding to help young people who are going through these significant life transitions, it's a real game changer," Mr Dawson said.

Gudjagang Ngara li-dhi, another grant recipient, is an Aboriginal community-controlled organisation that supports vulnerable children, young people and families that fall within the Darkinjung Country (NSW Central Coast) area.

Meaning "listen to the children,'' in Darkinjung language, Gudjagang Ngara li-dhi collaborates with organisations in the region, helping to deliver complementary services to Aboriginal people and providing an integrated response to their needs.

Gudjagang Ngara li-dhi CEO, Simone Hudson, says the grants will only help to develop the community-driven support services for Indigenous young people and their families Gudjagang Ngara li-dhi has been operating.

"This funding allows us the opportunity to put into practice a community model of care grounded in culture, connection, and community," she said.

"It will give our children the opportunity to participate in positive experiences, which are the foundation for all children to thrive and lead happy positive lives."

PRF worked closely with Thirriwirri, an Indigenous-owned and operated organisation, in order to develop the application process for the grants programme.

Thirriwirri Co-Founding Director, David Major, said the organisation was looking forward to seeing the grants' impact on First Nations communities.

"There are myriad passionate and dedicated First Nations-led organisations across the Country, working to improve the outcomes and focus on the strengths of our mob," Mr Major said in a statement.

"We are delighted to see the successful grant recipients and we know these First Nations-led organisations will have a massive impact in their communities."

Just Futures Open Grant Round recipients

Afri-Aus Care Inc. (VIC)

Foundation for Indigenous Sustainable Health (WA)

Gudjagang Ngara li-dhi (NSW)

Kids Under Cover (VIC & SA)

KRED Enterprises Charitable Trust (WA)

Murri Watch (Qld)

North Australian Aboriginal Family Legal Service (NT)

Synapse (National)

Village Connect Ltd (Qld)

Village Response Collective (VIC)

YSAS/Bunjilwarra (VIC)

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