28 March 2019
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
The Change the Record Coalition is appalled at the Federal Government’s complete disregard of the Australian Law Reform Commission’s (ALRC) Pathways to Justice Inquiry on the over-incarceration of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
“Aboriginal people have the highest incarceration rates in the world, yet an entire year has passed without a response from the Federal Government to the very clear solutions laid out by the ALRC,” said Cheryl Axleby, co-chair of Change the Record.
“While the Federal Government has dragged its feet, more of our people have unjustly died in custody, more kids have been abused in prison and our women have become the fastest growing prison population. It seems they choose not to care.”
The ALRC Pathways Inquiry set out distinct solutions to Australia’s mass-incarceration epidemic.
“The ALRC clearly set out that national justice targets on violence and over-imprisonment are needed. That mandatory sentencing and imprisonment for unpaid fines have to be abolished. That justice reinvestment is needed right around this country,” said Damian Griffis, co-chair of Change the Record.
“Aboriginal people with disability are being criminalised and need community supports. This begs the question: if non-Indigenous Australians were dying and being abused in prison at these endemic rates, would there be the same disregard and inaction?”
Change the Record has been advocating on the implementation of the Report for a year, when dozens of organisations called for the Government to act in an open letter. Change the Record even submitted a costed pre-budget submission with Justice Reinvestment Network Australia on the justice reinvestment recommendations to enable government implementation.
“Every time we have been in Canberra, we have been told that a different Government Department has carriage of the response to the ALRC report. No-one has been able to give us answers. It is simply not good enough,” said Ms Axleby.
“The ALRC clearly called for more support and programs for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women at every stage of the system, developed and delivered by First Nations women. Yet governments around the country continue to lock up our women, who are overwhelmingly survivors of violence.”
“This is not the only inquiry the Federal Government chooses to ignore. The Northern Territory Royal Commission is similarly gathering dust as harmful laws are passed increasing the power of Don Dale guards - the same guards who have still not been held accountable for their horrific abuses of kids exposed in that inquiry.”