In 1991, the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody released its report. The Commission had been established in 1987 to examine 99 Indigenous deaths in custody between 1980 and 31 May 1989.
The Commission’s key finding was that the deaths were due to the combination of police and prisons failing their duty of care, and the high numbers of Indigenous people being arrested and incarcerated. About 40% of the report’s 339 recommendations relate to social factors that now form the basis for the Close the Gap reports, including youth policy, education, alcohol, health, employment, housing, land rights, self-determination and reconciliation.
However, the majority of the 339 recommendations have not been implemented and many of the recommendations have only been implemented on a piecemeal and ad-hoc basis.
In 1991, Indigenous people constituted 14% of the prison population. Today they make up 27%.
Urgent action must be taken now, including:
- A complete audit of the recommendations from the 1991 Royal Commission;
- A smarter form of justice that takes us beyond a narrow focus on punishment and penalties, to look more broadly at a coherent and integrated vision of justice;
- An end to mandatory sentencing, imprisonment for fine defaults, "paperless" arrest laws, tough bail and parole conditions and punitive sentencing regimes;
- An increased focus on prevention and rehabilitation, rather than punishment;
- An embrace of the Royal Commission's call for a response based on the philosophy of empowerment and Indigenous-led solutions; and
- A review of legislation, policies and programs to ensure they are consistent with the rights contained in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
You can download a PDF copy of the petition here.