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Turnbull must act on alarming rates of Indigenous people with disabilities in justice system



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THE HON MARK DREYFUS QC MP SHADOW ATTORNEY-GENERAL SHADOW MINISTER FOR NATIONAL SECURITY MEMBER FOR ISAACS

SENATOR PATRICK DODSON

SHADOW ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR INDIGENOUS AFFAIRS AND ABORIGINAL AND TORRES STRAIT ISLANDERS SENATOR FOR WESTERN AUSTRALIA

TURNBULL MUST ACT ON ALARMING RATES OF INDIGENOUS PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES IN JUSTICE SYSTEM

Today’s ABC Radio Perth news reports that 95% of Indigenous Australians appearing in court have a mental or physical disability have reignited the discussion on the need for national justice targets under the Closing the Gap framework.

The alarmingly high rates were documented in the Australian Law Reform Commission’s Incarceration Rates of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples Discussion Paper.

During the Senate Community Affairs References Committee into indefinite detention, the Aboriginal Legal Service of Western Australia submitted the following statement:

‘95 per cent of Aboriginal people charged with criminal offences appearing before the courts have either an intellectual disability, a cognitive impairment or a mental illness. The overwhelming majority of those are undiagnosed and, therefore, untreated.’

This is unacceptable. But it is not new.

25 years ago Senator Dodson was a Commissioner on the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody (RCIADIC) which acknowledged that high rates of mental and physical disability were contributing factors leading to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people being incarcerated.

There are people in our community with unique and complex needs. These people should be supported. Not placed in the criminal justice system in the care of police, courts and prisons.

Labor has been calling for justice targets for a long time. The targets should be developed in cooperation with state and territory governments, law enforcement agencies, legal and community services, and guided by community leaders, Elders and Aboriginal representative organisations.

To address the justice gap we need community-driven and national strategies that empower communities to address the complex causes of incarceration and crime.

The Prime Minister should acknowledge the Indigenous incarceration crisis and commit to national justice targets under the Closing the Gap framework.

TUESDAY, 25 JULY 2017

MEDIA CONTACT: SOPHIA O’ROURKE (DODSON) 0401 951 676 PHILLIP CLARKE (DREYFUS) 0498 490 466