Australian Institute of Criminology

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Aboriginal deaths in custody and incarceration: looking back and looking forward

Canberra: Australian Institute of Criminology, November 1996

Abstract

It has been more than five years since the report of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody was tabled in the Commonwealth Parliament. Over that period we have seen both improvements in some areas addressed by the Royal Commission and increasing Aboriginal disadvantage in others. Many indigenous organisations continue to be at the forefront of action to enhance Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander well-being; the number of Aboriginal deaths in police lockups has fallen; the number of Aboriginal deaths in Australian prisons has risen; and the number of indigenous people in prison custody and their level of over-representation there (compared with non-Aboriginal people) is rising. The Royal Commission provided a blueprint for building on the strengths and working to overcome disadvantage with the principle of Aboriginal self-determination underpinning its recommendations. The lack of commitment and action by many sectors of government to implement the Royal Commission's recommendations, and the apparent limited understanding of the self-determination principles, augur poorly for the future. Case studies and statistical data are presented in the areas of Aboriginal deaths in custody and incarceration.