Mildura needs a dedicated drug court

Question without notice

October 28, 2021

Tania MAXWELL (Northern Victoria) (12:22):

My question is to the Attorney-General. Attorney, court reports from Mildura are filled with cases linked to drug use and abuse, particularly relating to ice. Mildura desperately needs a dedicated drug and alcohol rehabilitation centre. Drug courts are also proving to be quite successful in linking therapeutic interventions, such as rehabilitation, into the justice process. Given the pressing issues of drug-related offending in the Mallee, could you please advise what, if any, consultation is underway for establishing a Drug Court in the Magistrates Court of Mildura?

Jaclyn SYMES (Northern Victoria—Leader of the Government, Attorney-General, Minister for Emergency Services) (12:23):

I thank Ms Maxwell for her question and the opportunity to talk about Labor’s introduction of drug courts into the state of Victoria. Of course many of you are aware that the drug court model was brought to Victoria, brought to Melbourne, from the United States by former Attorney-General Rob Hulls, and the first site opened in Dandenong. The model was subsequently expanded to Melbourne, with two drug courts operating in this location.

We further provided $35 million in the 2019–20 state budget to establish the County Court drug and alcohol treatment court pilot and expand the Magistrates Court Drug Courts to Ballarat and Shepparton. We are big supporters of the Drug Court. I have recently visited the Dandenong Drug Court and spoken to participants of that court, and they are brilliant.

The Drug Courts in Ballarat and Shepparton are the first regional locations to have the program, with hearings expected to begin in the coming months. The investments over many years that I have run through I think certainly demonstrate that we are committed to the drug court model and its widely celebrated successes.

Noting that we are still in the process of standing up the first regional Drug Courts, the findings of the rollout would be extremely critical to consider our next steps.

Ms MAXWELL (12:24):

Thank you, Attorney. The 2014 evaluation of Drug Courts recommended collection of longitudinal data on a range of patterns including reoffending for both completing and non-completing clients. This data could be imperative to supporting an evidenced-based approach to assess the need for such a Drug Court in Mildura. Could you provide an update on the collection of this data and public reporting of the results?

Ms SYMES (12:25):

In relation to the 2014 evaluation, they were independent consultancies, both from 2005 and 2014, and certainly showed that not only is this investment good but the cost-benefit ratio community dividend is 5:1, which is fantastic. The evaluations also found a 32 per cent reduction in unemployment rates, a 70 per cent reduction in the number of prison days required and a 21 per cent reduction in reoffending rates. We are constantly evaluating the government’s funded initiatives, but I would reiterate that we know that Drug Courts work. They provide a wonderful opportunity for people to deal with their underlying causes of crime and put them back onto the right path in terms of their lives.

Image: Mildura Magistrates’ Court (Film Victoria)