26 October 2018
REPORT FAILS TO TELL THE ‘TRUE STORY’ ABOUT ABORIGINAL INCARCERATION
Peak body Aboriginal Legal Service (NSW/ACT) says an independent Report which claims most of the recommendations from the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody (RCIADC) have been adopted, fails to tell the ‘true story’ about alarming Aboriginal incarceration rates.
The Deloitte Access Economics Report, released by the Minister for Indigenous Affairs Nigel Scullion, found that that the majority of the RCIADC’s recommendations have been implemented across all levels of government.
But ALS Chair Bunja Smith described the Report’s findings as ‘limited’ – based only on desktop research into current policies and self-reporting from relevant government agencies.
“We’re disappointed that they’ve failed to consult with peak Aboriginal organisations like ours, who deal with the devastating effects of incarceration on Aboriginal people and their families each and every day,” Chair Smith said today.
“This is a limited, one-sided Report which clearly doesn’t tell the true story about what’s happened to our people since the RCIADC. How can the authors of the Report honestly claim that the majority of the RCIADC’s recommendations have been implemented when Aboriginal people still make-up 27% of Australia’s total prison population? The fastest growing prison cohort is Aboriginal women, most of whom are Mothers and the rates of Aboriginal children in out of home care is also skyrocketing. The Minister acknowledges that Aboriginal people are over-represented in prisons.
“What’s apparent is that they’ve simply reviewed how government agencies have responded to each of the recommendations of the RCIADC, but clearly, they haven’t measured the effectiveness of those actions.
“We believe that there needs to be more work done on several recommendations of the RCIADC, particularly those addressing funding for Aboriginal legal service providers; mandatory custody notifications for Aboriginal people and juvenile reporting and support.
“For example, the Minister states that NSW is the only state to have implemented Custody Notification System (CNS), an essential service which multi-stakeholder support including from the Police. The ALS fielded 17,801 CNS calls in the last financial year, but the CNS is currently only funded until 30 June 2019. This is a mere 8 months away and ALS has no certainty regarding the renewal or quantum of future funding which has grave implications for vulnerable clients.
“The fact that Aboriginal incarceration rates continue to rise shows that there’s a long way to go before the recommendations of the RCIADC are effectively implemented. Any meaningful analysis
of the RCIADC’s recommendations must include proper input and consultation with Aboriginal organisations.
“We must address the reasons why so many Aboriginal people are still behind bars as a result of
punitive laws and with limited access to culturally-sensitive, prevention and rehabilitation programs
which can keep them in the community with their families.