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Notice given 18 September 2001

1034  Senator Ridgeway: To move—That the Senate—

(a) notes with great sadness that an Aboriginal man died in custody on 17 September 2001 in a Queensland gaol, nearly two months to the day since the previous Aboriginal death in custody in Western Australia on 18 June 2001;

(b) acknowledges that:

(i) whereas Indigenous people in New South Wales were eight times more likely than the general population to be imprisoned in 1991, this figure rose to almost ten times more likely in 1998,

(ii) this over-representation of Indigenous Australians in our nation’s gaols stems initially from their higher rate of appearance at court, which is amplified at the point of sentencing, with Indigenous offenders sentenced to prison at almost twice the rate of non-Indigenous offenders, and

(iii) this situation is contrary to the recommendations of the 1991 Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody, which emphasised the need to reduce the disproportionate levels of Aboriginal people in custody, and to use incarceration as a measure of last resort; and

(c) calls on the Government:

(i) to re-affirm its commitment to addressing the unacceptably high levels of social, economic and cultural disadvantage experienced by Aboriginal Peoples and Torres Strait Islanders in recognition that this disadvantage contributes to Indigenous over-representation in our gaols, and

(ii) in consultation with Aboriginal Peoples and Torres Strait Islanders and their representative organisations, as well as state and territory governments, to commit to the development of a national strategy to reduce the rate at which Indigenous persons appear in court and the rate at which they are taken into custody.