FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
26 February 2019
Last night’s ABC Four Corners report showed how Australia is criminalising women more than ever. In response, Change the Record calls for Australian Governments to listen to the voices of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women for solutions.
“Australian Governments, police and courts are locking up Aboriginal women faster than any other prison population. It is horrific that up to 90% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women in prison are survivors of violence. But when women report this violence, they are punished for it,” said Cheryl Axleby, co-chair of Change the Record. “This is a failure of governments to prevent violence against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and to respond and support healing, recovery and supports needs of women survivors.”
In the past 5 years, there has been a 50% increase in women being locked up in Australia’s prisons. There are about 3,600 women in Australian prisons and 34% are Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander women. Aboriginal women are the fastest growing prison population, being 17 times more likely than non-Indigenous women to be incarcerated. Many are imprisoned for minor crimes.
“Instead of being treated as a survivor of violence, women are criminalised and punished. I think of the cruel injustice of Ms Dhu and Tanya Day. One day in prison can cost a woman everything, including her life,” said Antionette Braybrook, Convenor of the National Family Violence Prevention Legal Services and Change the Record member. “Governments must invest in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations that work with our women to stop violence and address women’s trauma.”
In 2017, Change the Record and the Human Rights Law Centre’s Report Over-represented and overlooked: the crisis of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women’s growing over-imprisonment called for governments around Australia to change laws that disproportionately and unfairly criminalise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women, like imprisoning people who cannot pay fines. A lack of housing is another issue resulting in thousands of women in prison on remand.
This year, Sisters Inside’s #FreeHer campaign has paid 100 Aboriginal women’s warrants and freed 6 women from prison.
“We have to stop relying on the prison industry as a default response for governments to address the social issues in our community,” said Deb Kilroy, CEO of Sisters Inside and Change the Record member. “While we live in a capitalist framework, we are always going to have the imprisonment of marginalised, disadvantaged women due to poverty, homelessness, mental health issues, drug and alcohol issues.”