'International embarrassment': Government slammed for ‘ignoring’ Indigenous incarceration report


Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians are the most incarcerated people on Earth and the country's biggest legal organisations are demanding action.

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A landmark report on "internationally embarrassing" rates of Indigenous incarceration has been met with 'deafening silence' since its release a year ago, according to Australia's peak legal body.

The Law Council of Australia has slammed the federal government's failure to respond to a comprehensive report into the "stark over-representation" of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Australian prisons - despite the government having commissioned the report in the first place.

"Pathways to Justice" by the Australian Law Reform Commission made extensive recommendations into incarceration rates a year ago - including that Aboriginal-led solutions are essential and effective.

Law Council president Arthur Moses said the government has not responded to the report and that their "apparent indifference" was troubling.

"Pathways to Justice painted a grim picture of the national tragedy that is overwhelmingly high Indigenous incarceration rates, but it also offered practical law reform processes that can help us turn the tide," Mr Moses said.

"Ignoring this report is an affront to the arduous work that went into it."

'A national disgrace'

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians are the most incarcerated people on Earth, according to the council.

"This is a national disgrace and international embarrassment," Mr Moses said.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians make up three per cent of the total Australian population, but 28 per cent of the adult prison population.

Indigenous men are 15 times more likely to be in custody than non-Indigenous men, while Indigenous women are 21 times more likely to be in jail.

The rate of Indigenous incarceration has increased by 45 per cent since 2008.

The council is demanding that the government address the report and incarceration rates.

"The time for change is now – the world is watching," Mr Moses said.

NT backflips on Royal Commission recommendations

The call-to-action coincides with the Northern Territory government's backflip on a key recommendation in the Royal Commission into the detention of children - passing legislation to allow restraints in youth detention centres last week.

Law Society Northern Territory said it was deeply concerned by the "regressive amendments".

"This bill strips away safeguards that are meant to protect children."

"The types of abuse that led to the calling of the Royal Commission can be repeated if this legislation is passed," the Society's president Maria Savvas said.

Indigenous young people aged ten to 17 were 24 times as likely than non-Indigenous young people to be in detention on an average night.

Fifty-three percent of all young people in detention are Indigenous.