New coalition demands more justice for Indigenous Australians


The shocking overrepresentation of Australian indigenous people in jail must be closed within a generation, a coalition of organisations said, as it launched a campaign to tackle the causes of imprisonment and violence. The Change the Record campaign sees levels at “crisis point” and calls for new approaches to address the high rates of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the justice system and as victims of violence. The campaign calls on all levels of government to increase investment in early intervention, preventive and diversionary strategies, and to work in partnership with indigenous people


“In the past 10 years we have seen an 88% increase in the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people ending up in prison. [There] are smarter solutions that increase safety, address the root causes of violence against women, cut reoffending and imprisonment rates, and build stronger and safer communities. We can do this and reduce the cost for all of us as taxpayers," Change the Record says on its website.


A National Justice Coalition is concerned that the new Australian federal budget failed to include the targeted investment needed to change the crisis levels of  imprisonment and violence being experienced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. 


The Coalition says, "The evidence clearly demonstrates that strong, healthy communities are the most effective way to prevent crime and make communities safe. Every dollar spent on prisons is one less dollar available to invest in reducing social and economic disadvantage through education, health, disability, housing, employment and other programs. Government funding must be reinvested into initiatives that address the underlying causes of crime.


"If we are serious about changing the record of violence and imprisonment rates for our people, it is vitally important that the Government commits to long-term investment in Aboriginal community controlled services and organizations, including law reform and advocacy peaks, to support the development of holistic solutions."


Organisers of the campaign say domestic violence, incarceration rates, housing and health issues cannot be separated. Broad sweeping statements about family violence in Aboriginal communities and calls to punish perpetrators more harshly could adversely affect Aboriginal women, who are the fastest growing demographic in prison.”


In Western Australia, the nation’s mother of jailers, the children of First Peoples are 52 times more likely to be incarcerated than non-Aboriginal children.


“Far too many Homelands of First Peoples have been degraded by government neglect - many have been induced into extreme poverty.”


The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare reports that 2013-14 was the third consecutive year the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous youth incarceration rates increased nationally.


Indigenous children and teenagers are 24 times more likely to be incarcerated than their non-Indigenous peers, with the difference even more stark in Western Australia, the Institute reports.




The National Justice Coalition includes: 





Background: Justice reinvestment, Aboriginal imprisonment and Aboriginal deaths in custody

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