Queensland Law Society

QLS backs inquiry into appallingly high Indigenous detention rates

Date 27 Oct 2016
Contact Tony Keim
Phone 07 3842 5835
Mobile 0488 433 884
Email media@qls.com.au

Queensland Law Society has praised the Federal Government’s decision to hold an inquiry into the appallingly high detention rate of Indigenous Australians.

Society president Bill Potts said the need for the government to hold an inquiry to address the “national shame” of Indigenous Australian “generations lost to the factories of despair" was a long time coming.

His comments follow Thursday’s announcement that the Federal Government would ask the Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) to examine the factors leading to the over-representation of Indigenous Australians in the prison system, and consider what reforms to the law could ameliorate this national tragedy.

It has been 25 years since the final report of the landmark Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody, but Indigenous Australians are still over-represented in Australia’s prisons. In 1991, Indigenous Australians made up 14 per cent of our nation’s prison population by 2015 – an increase  to 27 per cent.

Indigenous children and teenagers are 24 times more likely to be incarcerated than their non-Indigenous children, while Indigenous women are 30 times more likely to be incarcerated.

The inquiry announcement comes four months after QLS demanded a thorough and transparent inquiry be held in Indigenous detention in the wake of the horrific abuse and torture of children – as graphically demonstrated in ABC Four Corners program – in the Northern Territory.

“It is 25 years since we held the commission of inquiry into Black Deaths in Custody and the rates of incarceration of Indigenous Australians is getting worse rather than better,” Mr Potts said in early August.

Queensland Government statistics reveal Indigenous people were almost 11 times more likely than non-Indigenous people to be in prison in Queensland at 30 June 2015.

The rate of imprisonment for Queensland Indigenous prisoners was 1,577.8 per 100,000 adult Indigenous population, compared with 148.5 per 100,000 for non-Indigenous adults.

“Indigenous people make up three per cent of our entire population, however, 30 per cent of those incarcerated in Australia are Indigenous,” Mr Potts said.

“It is important that any inquiry into the causes of the incarceration rates including social, familial and economic reasons as well as practical process by which Indigenous people are dealt with both by the courts and corrective services.”

“Aspects of prevention and rehabilitation clearly need to be addressed.

“Whilst the causes will be complex so will be the solutions, but if we do not address this national shame in a coordinated and national approach we will lose generations of Indigenous people to the factories of despair.”

ENDS

For further information, please contact Tony Keim on 07 3842 5835, mobile 0488 433 884 or via email, media@qls.com.au.