New thinking required to reduce imprisonment rates

New thinking required to reduce imprisonment rates

14 April 2016 

Governments need to fundamentally rethink the way they work with Aboriginal communities if they are to combat the deepening crisis of rising imprisonment rates, the NSW Aboriginal Land Council (NSWALC) said today.

NSWALC Chair Roy Ah-See said the billions of dollars governments poured each year into Australia's prisons had only served to widen the gap for Aboriginal people.

Tomorrow marks the 25th anniversary of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody.

"In the 25 years since the Royal Commission, the number of Aboriginal people caught in this law and order treadmill continues to rise.

"Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Australia account for about 2 percent of the adult population yet make up an alarming 27 percent of the prisoner population.

"It's time for policy-makers to concede that the system is fundamentally broken and to work in genuine partnership with Aboriginal people and organisations on community-centred alternatives to prison.

"This includes policies and programs based on justice reinvestment where power is devolved at the local level to invest in education, training, parole support, rehabilitation and community-driven courts."

Cr Ah-See said Local Aboriginal Land Councils in New South Wales were also ready to be part of the solution to reversing high imprisonment rates.

"The Land Rights system in New South Wales is uniquely placed to play a constructive role in addressing some of the factors that bring Aboriginal people in contact with the justice system.

"In New South Wales, Local Aboriginal Land Councils are able to claim certain lands as freehold title and many of our Local Aboriginal Land Councils use that land to connect people back to country, to provide training, jobs and get people back on their feet.

"If we are serious about confronting the national shame of rising Aboriginal imprisonment rates, government policies need to be informed by what Aboriginal people experience at the grassroots.

"For too long, too many Aboriginal families have had to deal with the consequences of policy failure through deaths in custody, suicide and ongoing trauma."

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Media contact: Andrew Williams 0429 585 291