1 May 2015 | General Interest
National Aboriginal leaders Shane Duffy and Kirstie Parker have raised their concerns about the lack of progress being made in changing the landscape of the criminal justice system for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
Mr Duffy, Chairman of the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services (NATSILS), and Ms Parker, Co-Chairwoman of the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples, highlighted the disappointingly familiar state of affairs in a statement printed in The Australian newspaper on 15 April.
This date is an important one, namely the 24th anniversary of the tabling of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody report.
“Today, the nation faces an even deeper crisis than that interrogated by the commission in 1991,” the statement reads.
“While the past 24 years have encompassed a generation of promise and incremental successes, there have been some fundamental failures as well.
“Here are the sobering statistics. In the past 10 years, there has been a 57 per cent increase in the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people ending up in prison. We are now 13 times likelier to be imprisoned that non-indigenous people. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people account for 28 per cent of all Australian prisoners, and things are even worse for our young people, who account for about half of all Australian youth detainees.”
Amongst other issues discussed in the statement is the role early intervention can play in breaking the cycle of Indigenous people coming into contact with the criminal justice system; the decision from the government to restore funding to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services; and the integral principle of self-determination in achieving positive change.
“We believe that with investment in early intervention, and prevention and diversion strategies to address the root causes and help break the cycle of contact with the criminal justice system, we can reduce incarceration and violence rates. But it will take a concerted effort by communities, organisations and governments – an effort that lives on beyond election cycles.
“Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people know the issues intimately – we live them every day – and how they can start to be addressed, but we can’t do it alone. We ask all Australians to walk with us, to help change the record.”
The article from Mr Duffy and Ms Parker can be viewed online through The Australian website.