Australian Bar Association
(ABA) welcomes the Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) inquiry into indigenous incarceration in the country, an issue which is “a national priority,” according to Patrick O’Sullivan QC.
Commonwealth Attorney-General Senator the Hon George Brandis QC announced Thursday to the ABA and Victorian Bar 2016 National Legal Conference in Melbourne that ALRC will probe indigenous incarceration and consider law reforms to attack the problem.
“I have decided to make a new reference to the Australian Law Reform Commission, to ask them to examine the incarceration of Indigenous Australians, and to consider what law reform measures can be put in place to help ameliorate this national tragedy,” Brandis said.
“The Commonwealth will collaborate with state and territory governments, as theirs are the jurisdictions of course with primary responsibility for our criminal justice frameworks, including policing,” he added.
The ABA said that incarceration rates of Indigenous Australians are 16 times higher non-Indigenous Australians, indigenous children and teenagers are 24 times more likely to be incarcerated than non-Indigenous children and that indigenous women are almost 30 times more likely to be incarcerated than non-indigenous women.
“The over-representation of Indigenous people incarcerated is a national disgrace and this announcement of an is a significant opportunity to make informed and practical changes that address this problem and delivers better justice outcomes for Indigenous Australians and the country as a whole,” said O’Sullivan, the ABA’s president.
“The ABA has consistently called for national co-operation to address the shocking and disproportionate rates of Indigenous incarceration. In particular, we have proposed a range of measures including the removal of certain mandatory sentencing laws that have the biggest impact with minimum effect on Indigenous people, as well as a review of bail laws, fine default imprisonment and investing in justice reinvestment programs,” he added.
According to the Association, it will consult with the government and work with the indigenous community to develop the terms of reference to the ALRC examination.
“Australia’s Indigenous incarceration rate is one of the most challenging human rights issues facing our country today and one that has been of deep concern to the Australian Bar Association. Today’s announcement is a positive and necessary step towards addressing one of Australia’s most alarming issues,” said O’Sullivan.
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