New figures reveal that 51 percent of kids in NSW jails are Aboriginal even though Aboriginal children represent less than 3 percent of the state's population of juveniles.
Source:
NITV News
23 Aug 2013 - 6:10 PM  UPDATED 26 Aug 2013 - 2:01 PM

New figures reveal that 51 percent of kids in NSW jails are Aboriginal even though Aboriginal children represent less than 3 percent of the state's population of juveniles.

The shocking rate of incarceration of young Indigenous People in New South Wales has turned into a hot political issue.

Both state and federal governments have come under fire from the Greens.

State estimates show that while the number of juveniles in detention had on average fallen over the last 12 months, the percentage of those who are Indigenous, still measured over fifty percent.

The figures show 50 percent of kids jailed in NSW prisons are on remand, although 83 percent of the kids receive a non-custodial sentence or are acquitted at trial.

The statistics were revealed in NSW Parliament Estimates in response to questioning by Greens MP David Shoebridge.

Speaking in Sydney today, the Greens said figures like this are not isolated to any one state, describing the detention rates of Indigenous juveniles as a "national disgrace".

"This is just not just NSW problem, it should be a problem that's raising a red light alarm to anybody concerned about concerned about social equity in Australia," says the Greens candidate for the seat of Sydney, Dianne Hiles.

As candidate for the Federal seat of Sydney, Dianne Hiles, says imprisonment should only be an option once all other avenues of justice have been exhausted.

"There needs to be concerted action to improve the social conditions and provide some real alternatives to detention, so kids are being kept safe, without having to be locked up."

Greens MP David Shoebridge says he believes the state and territory governments have run out of ideas on how to solve the problem.

"Tonight, more than half the kids in NSW jails will be Aboriginal kids. And we see when we look to the Northern Territory that almost 100 percent of kids in NT jails will be Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander kids.

"We've got a system that is failing the next generation of aboriginal kids and we need some serious intervention by the federal government."

He claims the Greens have a new approach.

"Rather than getting together with the federal government and building more safe houses, building community capacity, we find state and territory governments building more and more jails and spending more and more on the justice system."

Outspoken NT Greens candidate Barbara Shaw says an approach like this is particularly important for remote Indigenous communities.

"Putting programs in the bush where it's needed (is important), there are no community services out there when somebody is on bail. The Greens have been very strong on justice re-investment," Ms Shaw says.

The Greens candidates say, if elected, redressing the incarceration numbers and committing government funds to more diversionary programs will be a major priority.

Data from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare shows the national rate of Aboriginal juvenile incarceration has risen to a startling rate of 31 times the non-indigenous rate, up from 27 times in 2008.