30 November 2015 | General Interest
The Change the Record Coalition will today meet in Canberra to launch the Blueprint for Change. This is the first time a broad range of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and non-Indigenous organisations have come together with a concrete plan for Federal, State and Territory Governments to change the record on soaring Aboriginal imprisonment rates and high levels of experienced violence.
The Blueprint urges a whole of government strategy, the setting of justice targets, and a commitment to work in partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, their organisations and representatives to drive solutions.
Co-Chair Shane Duffy said, “This Blueprint is the result of more than two years of collaboration between 16 leading peak Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander bodies, legal organisations and human rights groups.
“When these key organisations come together with one voice, governments need to listen. There is no more time to waste. Australia’s first peoples are being locked up at unprecedented rates, and experiencing high rates of violence.”
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are currently 13 times more likely to be imprisoned than non-Indigenous people, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women are 34 times more likely to be hospitalised as a result of family violence than non-Indigenous women.
Change the Record Co-Chair Kirstie Parker said, “This is more than bad statistics; these figures represent people – brothers, sisters, sons and daughters who are being separated from their families and need our support.
“We know the underlying factors behind these statistics, and our Blueprint makes clear the steps that all levels of government must take to get Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people out of prison and improve community safety for us all.
“There is an urgent need for federal leadership and a national multi-partisan approach to drive co-ordinated action across the country. Our Blueprint outlines concrete changes that Federal, State and Territory governments must make to laws and policies to both reduce the escalating numbers of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people being imprisoned, and improve community safety.
Mr Duffy said the Coalition urged the Federal Government to lead their State and Territory colleagues on this critical issue, and looked forward to working with all levels of government to put the Blueprint for Change into action.
The Blueprint highlights the need for justice targets to close the gap by 2040 both in the rates of imprisonment between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and in the disproportionate rates of violence against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander
People, with priority strategies for women and children.
These targets should be accompanied by a National Agreement which includes a reporting mechanism, as well as measurable sub-targets and a commitment to halve the gap in the above over-arching goals by no later than 2030.
The Blueprint also calls for the establishment of an independent central agency with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander oversight, to co-ordinate a comprehensive, current and consistent national approach to related data collection and policy development.
Laws, policies and strategies around reducing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander imprisonment and violence rates must be underpinned by a human-rights approach, and designed in consultation and partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and organisations.
Governments must also support capacity building for these communities and organisations, so that policies are underpinned by the principle of self-determination, respect, and recognition of the history of dispossession and trauma experienced by many communities.
The recently released 2015 Report Card on Indigenous Health, published by the Australian Medial Association (AMA), has further confirmed the stark difference in the rates of imprisonment between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and non-Indigenous people in Australia is one of the most significant and well-known divides.