Talks to probe prison rates
The Federal Government will hold an inquiry into the incarceration rate of Indigenous Australians.
Attorney-General George Brandis has issued a joint statement with Indigenous Affairs Minister Nigel Scullion, saying the Government has asked the Australian Law Reform Commission look at the woeful overrepresentation of Indigenous Australians in prison.
The statement describes the situation as a “national tragedy”.
Stats from June 2015 show Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander prisoners make up 27 per cent of the total Australian prisoner population, despite that same group comprising 2 per cent of the overall population.
Australian Bureau of Statistics figures show that the imprisonment rate (number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders imprisoned as a percentage of the population) is increasing compared to non-Indigenous Australians.
The announcement comes in the same week as a report by Northern Territory Children's Commissioner Colleen Gwynne was tabled in the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly today.
The report looks into several cases involving the management of young people classified as ‘at risk’ in youth detention centres in Alice Springs and Darwin.
Investigators found that prison authorities treated at-risk juveniles in a “reactive” way, isolating them in cells in a way that often led to self-harm attempts.
The report also highlights numerous breaches of the Government's relevant regulations and procedures for managing at-risk juveniles.
It said some practices even breach United Nations rules on the treatment of children in detention.
The document details systemic failings and problems, including punishing detainees for mental health issues and leaving detention officers feeling helpless.
The NT report is available in PDF form, here.