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Aboriginal deaths in custody must stop.

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Media Release

Senator Aden Ridgeway  

Senator for News South Wales 

Australian Democrats spokesperson for Reconciliation


Aboriginal deaths in custody must stop.

Senator Aden Ridgeway has expressed his deep concern to the Senate about the increas ing number of Aboriginal deaths in custody in Australia.

"A three-year Royal Commission of Inquiry resulted in three hundred and thirty nine recommendations, the core theme of which was: ‘Keep Aboriginal people out of custody’.

"The Commonwealth has spent $33 million in the process, and $400 million in the five years following the Royal Commission to implement the recommendations.

"And yet, a recent report from the Australian Institute of Criminology has found that since 1989 when the Royal Commission started and there had been 99 Aboriginal deaths in custody, there has subsequently been another 147 Aboriginal deaths in custody in Australia.

"Indigenous people might only represent 2 percent of the Australian population, but they constitute more than 15 percent of all prison deaths. If death does not discriminate, then our justice system obviously does," Senator Ridgeway said.

"I would like to remind the Senate that Aboriginal people across Australia were greatly heartened by the fact that the federal government of the day called a Royal Commission in 1987.

"They thought there would finally be solutions and strategies put in place to stop Aboriginal people dying in custody in such disproportionate numbers. But time has shown them their expectations were too high. Aboriginal deaths in custody have, in fact, escalated, reaching a peak in 1995 of 17 deaths.

"We as Senators of the Australian Parliament have a responsibility to all Australians, Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal, to give true effect to the recommendations of the Royal Commission," Senator Ridgeway said.

"I believe that this conclusion is still accurate - it is not too late for real outcomes to be delivered to Aboriginal people, outcomes that will deliver a significant reduction in the deaths of Aboriginal people in custody," Senator Ridgeway concluded.



jy  1999-12-16  09:39