Startling data highlighted in a recently published factsheet titled Justice outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians reinforces the urgent need for a new prevention-focused approach to this issue.
This fact sheet is the latest in a series of factsheets drawing on information from the Overcoming Indigenous Disadvantage: Key Indicators 2014 report (OID), which measures the wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. It provides information about outcomes across a range of strategic areas such as early child development, education and training, healthy lives, economic participation, home environment, and safe and supportive communities.
Justice outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians examines selected measures from the OID report relating to crime and justice for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians.
Of the more shocking findings included in the factsheet is the prevalence of family and community violence amongst Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians: 1 in 4 adults reported being a victim of family violence and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians are between 25 and 33 times more likely to be hospitalised for family violence than other Australians. This is a frightening figure and likely to underestimate the true extent of family violence as not all victims seek medical attention and not all hospitalisations resulting from family violence will be recorded as such.
The factsheet indicates that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians make up over a quarter of the adult prison population, and that the gap in the imprisonment rate (13 times the rate for non-Indigenous Australians) is widening.
Concerning youth detention, the factsheet explains that “diversion of young offenders from the criminal justice system can be a swift and economically efficient response to offending, by reducing the negative effects of contact with other offenders and the negative labelling and stigmatisation.”
However, while detention is apparently considered a last resort for youth, the rate of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people in detention was still around 24 times the rate for non-Indigenous youth.
There is strong data to assist in developing strategies to reduce over representation. The data shows, for example, that over three-quarters of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander prisoners had been previously imprisoned, significantly contributing to the over-representation.
The report also examines whether policies and programs are achieving positive outcomes for Indigenous Australians. The factsheet showcases the Alice Springs Domestic and Family Violence Outreach Service in the Northern Territory, and the Magistrates Early Referral into Treatment drug diversion program in New South Wales, as two programs that are making a difference for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians.
The factsheet series, along with an overview and complete copy of the OID report, is available to download via the Productivity Commission website.
When the OID report was first published in November 2014, SNAICC Chairperson Sharron Williams said the statistics showed that more needed to be done to reduce escalating incarceration rates, leading calls for specific justice targets under Closing the Gap and greater investment in early intervention and prevention programs.
Download the media release to learn more about Ms Williams’s evaluation of the report.
See new campaign Change the Record for more information on what you can do to help end the over-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the justice system, and reduce violence against our women and girls.