UNICEF Australia welcomes announcement of Inquiry into incarceration rate of Indigenous Australians

Sydney, 27 October 2016 - UNICEF Australia today welcomes the announcement by the Turnbull Government that it will ask the Australian Law Reform Commission to conduct an inquiry into the over representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in incarceration.

“We have watched the over-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults and children in incarceration continue on an upward trajectory in recent years. It is undoubtedly a national crisis which warrants examination and action.” said Amy Lamoin, Head of Policy and Advocacy, UNICEF Australia.

“Children should only ever be detained as a measure of last resort and diversion options should be fully utilised. We’re concerned that the data indicates this is not happening in practice.”

UNICEF Australia and members of the Australian Child Rights Taskforce have repeatedly highlighted concerns about youth justice systems across Australia, most recently in a report which marked 25 years of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. This report highlighted that from June 2011 to June 2015, the level of over-representation of Indigenous young people aged 10–17 in detention increased from 19 to 26 times the rate of non-Indigenous young people.[1]

“The newly announced ALRC Inquiry must be fully informed through consultation with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, children and young people. We call on the Government to ensure that children and young people in particular are given full opportunity and support to contribute to the inquiry and to shape its recommendations.”

“Over the years we have seen numerous inquiries on this issue. We know a great deal about what we can and should be doing better, with many recommendations stemming back to the 1991 Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody.”

“Achieving actual change however will only come from the implementation of recommendations made as a result of the inquiry. Such will undoubtedly require long-term commitment and bipartisan support across Governments, which we hope will come in due course.” added Ms Lamoin.

For further information and interviews, please contact:
Nicole Mackey, UNICEF Australia, 0403 964 334, nmackey@unicef.org.au
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[1] Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, Youth detention population in Australia 2015 (2015)