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Issue #1732      May 25, 2016

Royal Commission 25 years on

More deaths, despite report

More than 250 people gathered in Perth last month at the start of a day of action to highlight the 25 years that have passed since the release of the final findings of the Royal Commission Into Aboriginal Deaths In Custody in 1991.

Deaths in Custody Watch Committee (WA) chair Bruce Campbell told the Koori Mail that little had been achieved to reduce the incarceration rates of Indigenous people, despite the commission’s 339 recommendations – most of which have never been implemented.

“Deaths in custody are not decreasing. They are on the rise,” Campbell said. “This is because the prison population keeps increasing and prisons are not safe places. In Western Australia there is a death in custody, on average, every month. Between June 15 and December 16, 2015, there were six deaths in custody.

“Three of these people were Aboriginal.”

Campbell said the 25-year point since the Royal Commission marked a point of real failure for successive governments. “With all the talk of closing the gap the key thing is to look at where people are getting caught up in the system and why they are being marginalised further and further,” he said.

Campbell said the Watch Committee had long advocated for a justice reinvestment approach, whereby funds are spent in communities to improve social conditions rather than on keeping people in jail.

“Governments need to change tack and go to the root of the problem.

“Maybe that’s health care, parenting skills, and all that cultural family stuff that really helps,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Perth rally heard from a range of speakers including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner Mick Gooda, and the families of people who had died in custody.

A “die-in” took place outside the Perth Magistrates Court to raise awareness about the ongoing deaths.

Gatherings also took place in Melbourne, Queensland and at Parliament House in Canberra to mark the 25 years since the Royal Commission.

Koori Mail

Next article – A model for action

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