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Monday, 7 September 2015
Page: 6109

Senator SIEWERT (Western AustraliaAustralian Greens Whip) (16:50): I move:

That the Senate take note of the document.

This is a particularly important piece of work, again highlighting the importance of the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. It gives us a good view of the welfare of our country. It points out that we have made some progress in some significant areas, but it also points out that there are concerns in a number of areas. I want to pick out a couple of those areas, although, given the body and strength of this work, I only have time to pull out a certain amount. In particular I want to point out some of the issues that are particularly affecting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and the points that are made in the report. For example, it talks about Indigenous youth. I must note here that I always use 'Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples', because that is what I have been asked to use. I apologise to the people who may read this in the future. I am actually using the words that are in the report.

However, it points out the overrepresentation of Indigenous youth in our justice system and finds that:

In 2013-14, on an average day, 920 young people aged 10-14 were under youth justice supervision (rate of 7 per 10,000 population). This was less than the 1,031 young people … in 2009-10.

This drop was mainly due to a fall in the number of young males under supervision … There was, however, a small overall increase in the number of young females under supervision …

However, it does say that:

The vast majority (82%) of young people aged 10-14 who were under supervision on an average day were supervised in the community.

That is good. But it also said:

Indigenous young people aged 10-14 were 23 times as likely to be under supervision and 36 times as likely to be in detention as young non-Indigenous people.

In 2013-14, there were 8,027 young people aged 15-24 under youth justice supervision (excluding Western Australia and Northern Territory), with 6,364 or 79% of these aged 15-17.

Despite making up only 4% of those aged 15-24 in the population, Indigenous young people made up 31% of those aged 15-24 under youth justice supervision.

It is appalling that we still have these rates of young people being overrepresented in our justice system. We must actually start properly and seriously addressing these issues and the underlying causes of this overrepresentation in the justice system. The problem here is not only for the young people. There is a much higher likelihood that once a young person has had an interaction with the justice system, and particularly for an Aboriginal and Strait Islander young person, they are more likely to have an interaction with the justice system as an adult. This is where issues around justice reinvestment and starting to focus on justice reinvestment are so important.

Some of the other issues for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples come up in here, such as the issue around employment. In 2012-13, which are the latest figures in this report, just under half of Aboriginal peoples aged 15 to 64 were employed. In fact, the report does show that we have had a bit of an improvement in the situation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people being employed, but—again—it is still not good enough. I think we have a long way to go on the programs that we are developing to address employment. The medium work income for an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander household was $465 in 2013. This equates to just over half of the $869 medium income for a non-Indigenous household. That was after adjusting for differences in household size and composition.

This clearly highlights that we have a significant way to go to close the gap. We urgently need to address these particular issues to make sure that we are on track for closing the gap. Unfortunately, it reflects the figures that we saw with the report on closing the gap. I seek leave to continue my remarks later.

Leave granted; debate adjourned.