New campaign to end the over-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the justice system - within a generation
Leading Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander, community and human rights organisations have come together today to outline a new approach to changing the shocking rates of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ imprisonment and experience of violence.
The Change the Record campaign is led by the National Justice Coalition, a broad group of organisations committed to ending the over-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the justice system within a generation.
Together, they are calling for greater investment in early intervention, prevention and diversion strategies, which address the root causes of violence and imprisonment. The Change the Record campaign is also urging all levels of government to work in partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, communities, services and their representatives, to develop and implement solutions.
According to the latest figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in prison rose by 88% between 2004 and 2014. Meanwhile, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and children are at much higher risk of family violence than non-Indigenous people.
This escalating crisis is one of the most significant human rights challenges facing Australia today, and is having a devastating impact on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families and communities. The Change the Record campaign is the result of concerned organisations wanting urgent action and a different approach to crime and public safety.
“The Change the Record campaign has come about through the great frustration among grass-roots and other organisations that things are simply not getting any better. In fact, they’re getting worse,” said Co-Chair of the National Justice Coalition, Kirstie Parker.
“Frankly, we are all tired of hearing the bad statistics. We know there are solutions and that with a shared commitment, we can change these statistics,” Ms Parker said.
“The strength of the Change the Record campaign is that it consists of organisations that have the experience and expertise to identify what the solutions are and work with the public, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and the government to implement them.”
Fellow Co-Chair Shane Duffy said, “We don’t believe the current approach to crime and public safety is working. We are spending more and more on prisons and not enough on initiatives that can prevent crime in the first place and divert people away from the criminal justice system. We are telling governments that we need a different approach.”
“We are calling on the Australian Government to exercise critical leadership on this issue. The tragic statistics show that we need a commitment to justice targets in the Government’s Closing the Gap Strategy and plans on how these targets will be achieved,” Mr Duffy said.
“We are also asking everyday Australians to stand with us in this effort. We know the issues and we know the solutions. We all want to live in safe and strong communities. Work with us, support us and together we can Change the Record.”
Shane Duffy and Kirstie Parker are the Co-Chairs of the National Justice Coalition. Kirstie Parker is also Co-Chair of the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples, while Shane Duffy is the Chairperson of National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services (NATSILS).
The National Justice Coalition includes:
- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner, Mick Gooda
- Amnesty International Australia
- Australian Council of Social Service
- Federation of Community Legal Centres (Vic)
- First Peoples Disability Network
- Human Rights Law Centre
- Law Council of Australia
- National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services
- National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations
- National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples
- National Family Violence Prevention Legal Services Forum
- Oxfam Australia
- Secretariat of National Aboriginal and Islander Child Care
- Sisters Inside
- Victorian Commissioner for Aboriginal Children and Young People, Andrew Jackomos
- General contact: Shannon Longhurst, phone 0409 711 061
- Media contact for Shane Duffy: Sarah Down, phone 0438 748 389
- Media contact for Kirstie Parker: Mahala Strohfeldt, phone 0457 877 408