A government audit of death in custody reform has been described as a “whitewash” by the peak national body campaigning to reduce Indigenous incarceration rates.
Reducing Aboriginal over-representation in the prison system was the major finding of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal deaths in Custody.
The investigation’s final report was delivered nearly 30 years ago, but a government audit tabled in parliament last week showed the rates have doubled since then.
It found 64 per cent of the 339 recommendations of the royal commission have been fully implemented.
A further 30 per cent have been mostly or partially implemented.
Damian Griffis, the co-chair of Change the Record, said the government response has fallen short.
“This report seems to be a whitewash of the inadequate, half-hearted response to RCIADIC over the last 27 years,” he said.
“It doesn’t show a meaningful picture of the whole response to the royal commission because it excludes the voices of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.”
Cheryl Axelby, co-chair of the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services, said there was a long way to go.
“Unfair laws and policies remain on the books that disproportionately target Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, like mandatory sentencing and imprisonment for unpaid fines,” she said.
Greens Senator Rachel Siewert was also critical.
“Successive governments have had almost 30 years to get this right, but we now see that incarceration rates have in fact doubled since the completion of the royal commission,” she said.
“Imprisonment is not a solution to poverty and social issues and one of the key royal commission recommendations was imprisonment at last resort."
One of the key recommendations yet to be fully implemented across the country is the introduction of the Custody Notification Service (CNS).
To date only New South Wales has implemented a CNS.
Indigenous Affairs Minister Nigel Scullion said he wrote to all states and territories two years ago offering to fund the establishment and first three years operation of a mandatory CNS enshrined in legislation.
“While progress has been unacceptably slow I remain hopeful of delivering this important measure in the near future,” he said.