: Indigenous incarceration: a ‘catastrophe’

Indigenous incarceration: a ‘catastrophe’

Steven Castan
Western Australia

In related news, the issue of over-representation of Indigenous Australians in prisons is, according to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner, Mick Gooda, a ‘catastrophe’ which left him shocked.

Statistics released by the federal governments Productivity Commission in November show a 57 per cent rise in incarceration rates among Indigenous men, women and children over the past 15 years with the conclusion that, nationally, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults are 15 times more likely to be imprisoned than non-Indigenous Australian.

‘That is a catastrophe in anyone’s language,’ said Mr Gooda. In his 2014 Social Justice and Native Title Report, Mr Gooda urged the federal government to adopt a justice target in its Closing the Gap strategy that would reduce the current rate of Indigenous incarceration.

Mr Gooda suggested that funds allocated to prisons should be invested into community-driven programs and strategies that address the underlying causes of Indigenous offending.

Report Recommendations:

  • The Australian government revises its current position on targets as part of Closing the Gap, to include holistic justice targets aimed at promoting safer communities.
  • The Australian government actively consults and works with the National Justice Coalition on justice related issues.
  • The Australian government takes a leadership role on justice reinvestment and works with states, territories and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities to identify further trial sites.

The report can be found at — https://www.humanrights.gov.au/publications/social-justice-and-native-title-report-2014.

STEVEN CASTAN is a WA-based barrister, and nationally accredited mediator.

(2015) 40(1) AltLJ 66
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