• Plans to reduce incarceration rates in QLD. (AAP)Source: AAP
A new initiative involving traditional owners hopes to reverse increases in levels of Indigenous imprisonment.
28 Jul 2017 - 10:23 AM  UPDATED 28 Jul 2017 - 10:23 AM

Queensland's traditional owners and prisoner services are driving a push towards community-based programs in a bid to reduce indigenous inmate numbers.

Proposals being considered by the state government recommend diverting low-risk indigenous inmates from overcrowded prisons to rehabilitation and accommodation programs run by traditional owners and support groups.

Keelen Mailman, who manages the near near-77,000 hectare Mt Tabor Station and chairs the Bidjarra Traditional Owners group, is leading a plan to redirect inmates to the commercial outback cattle station for substance rehabilitation, skills training and on-country healing.

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"There's a saying that you do the crime, you do the time but a lot of our people are put into prisons for small petty crime, which is destroying their self- esteem, their confidence," Ms Mailman told AAP.

"They're coming out suicidal, whereas we're giving them the opportunity to come here before going to the prison."

Mt Tabor Station holds cultural significance for the Bidjarra people as the site of burial grounds and ancestral art.

"I know that every person has their own individual story, journey, heartaches and happiness but we want to give them the strength and country is the best place," Ms Mailman said.

The plan was developed with Keith Hamburger, the former head of Queensland's prisons system.

Mr Hamburger said the corrections system was failing to stop the cycle of offending because prison overcrowding was limiting access to rehabilitation programs.

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"Prisons are needed for dangerous, difficult people and long term prisoners," he told AAP.

"But for a significant proportion of prisoners, if we can find programs where we can ensure security and safety, and put some out on country successfully, then we can really work on rehabilitation and reducing recidivism."

Mr Hamburger said 75 per cent of Aboriginal offenders returned to jail after two years, a staggering figure he said was costing the government and communities.

"One of the major drivers of all this is to achieve indigenous empowerment, to get First Nation people involved in solving the terrible problem of over- representation in prison," he added.

The proposal is currently being considered by Queensland Treasurer Curtis Pitt's office as a market-led proposal.

The state government is also considering a proposal that would see indigenous women, the fastest growing sector of Australia's prison population, diverted into non-custodial services in Brisbane and Cherbourg.