“I am frankly astonished at the announcement of an inquiry into the incarceration rate of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples by Attorney-General George Brandis and Minister Scullion this morning”, Australian Greens Senator Rachel Siewert said today.
“We have known what we need to do for over 25 years now. The Royal Commission into Deaths in Custody made 339 recommendations, a large number of which have not been implemented.
“It really is quite astounding that successive Governments have basically sat and watched Aboriginal deaths in custody and incarceration grow for 25 years.
“This report was completed 25 years ago. Our incarceration rates are a national shame and so is our lack of action on the issue.
“In 1991, 14% of the prison population were Aboriginal, now Aboriginal people make up 27%. The Government must listen to Aboriginal leaders and the Aboriginal community and move to implement the recommendations of the Royal Commission.
"There has also been repeated calls for justice targets as part of closing the gap, I urge the Government to rethink their opposition to this target. Last year Minister Scullion scoffed at the prospect of justice targets, despite them being supported by Aboriginal community leaders across the country. They must be implemented as a priority.
"In the last sitting of the Senate, the Finance and Public Administration Standing Committee tabled a report on Aboriginal access to legal services, again highlighting the deficiencies in the system and making a number of recommendations. I suggest that the Government has a look at that report as well. There are numerous reports on this issue, it is time for action by Governments.
“Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people got just one mention in Treasurer Scott Morrison’s budget speech earlier this year. And we have seen successive Coalition Governments defund frontline Indigenous services.
“In the past 25 years over 400 recommendations have been made to reduce crippling disadvantage for our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, most of which have only been implemented in part or ignored all together.
“There are lives at stake, it is time to genuinely act with vigour to address disproportionate disadvantage across the board and work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples in a well-resourced and consultative way to close the gap once and for all.
“I strongly urge Minister Scullion, George Brandis and the Government to abandon the inquiry and to act. We must not put off addressing this issue with another inquiry. The time to address this national shame is now”.