• Pat Dodson has called on the federal government to act on incarceration rates. (AAP)Source: AAP
Warren Snowdon has called on the government to introduce Close the Gap targets around incarceration rates in the wake of a UN special rapporteur's scathing assessment of the treatment of Indigenous Australians, in particular the high rate of imprisonment.
5 Apr 2017 - 8:56 AM  UPDATED 5 Apr 2017 - 8:56 AM

Federal Labor MP Warren Snowdon has urged the prime minister to set an indigenous incarceration Closing the Gap target after a UN official said the number of Aboriginal people behind bars was a "major human rights concern".

UN special rapporteur Victoria Tauli-Corpuz on Monday struck out at the "disturbing" number of indigenous children in youth detention. Mr Snowdon , the member for the Northern Territory seat of Lingiari, said the Turnbull government's "block-headed opposition" to a justice target was based on no rational thought process.

"Clearly the federal government isn't interested. It's either ideological or just stupidity," he said.

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Aboriginal Australians constitute about a quarter of the prison population despite making up only three per cent of the total population.

The Territory has the nation's highest rate of young people in detention, and about 94 per cent of those kids are Aboriginal.

With National Youth Week underway, Ms Tauli-Corpuz backed mounting calls for Malcolm Turnbull to allow indigenous incarceration to join seven existing Closing the Gap goals.

More than 100 organisations signed an open letter last week demanding the addition as the NT juvenile justice royal commission delivered its interim report.

The decade-old targets are under review following another bleak report this year showing only one of seven is on track to be met.

Indigenous Affairs Minister Nigel Scullion has resisted pressure to introduce the target for years and last week stressed it was part of the state and territories' responsibility.

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Ms Tauli-Corpuz also advocated a rethink of laws and policies which have a disproportionate impact on indigenous people, such as paperless arrest laws in the NT.

And she slammed the "appalling" living conditions and overcrowded housing in Darwin's town camps.

Mr Snowdon said he was extremely embarrassed by it.

"We've got people living on the fringes of our major cities and towns living in third world conditions," he said.

"As a result they suffer third world health outcomes. They don't have access to employment opportunities or decent and safe housing."

The NT government has promised to invest $1.1 billion in remote indigenous housing over 10 years.

Senator Scullion said the vast majority of Aboriginal people had jobs, attended school and were not involved in the criminal justice system.

"The coalition government, however, acknowledges there are First Australians who need additional support -- and is committed to providing it," he said in a statement.