Thursday 15 April, 2021 marks 30 years since the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody handed down their final report and recommendations. In those 30 years, well over 450 more Aboriginal people have died in police or prison custody and in the last six weeks alone, there have been five more deaths.
Indigenous people are being incarcerated at higher rates than at the time of the Royal Commission and are now 13 times more likely to be imprisoned than non-Indigenous people. We are seeing the significant and heartbreaking impact of these systemic issues in the over-representation of Aboriginal children and young people in the out-of-home care and justice systems.
On Saturday we saw protests and marches across the city, with thousands of people attending to protest against ongoing injustices against Indigenous people, and the lack of commitment by governments to implement these reforms. VACCA supports the families and communities calling for urgent action.
The Final Report made a total of 339 recommendations for reform across the entire justice system including death investigations, diversion, prison safety, social change, and self-determination. 30 years on and we are yet to see any drastic reform or commitment to implementing these recommendations with many having been only partially or not at all implemented.
Recommendation 62 calls for governments and Aboriginal organisations to devise strategies to reduce the rate of which Aboriginal children and young people are involved in the welfare and criminal justice systems, and the rate in which children are removed from their families and communities- yet we are still seeing a disproportionate number of our children in out of home care and crossing over into the justice system.
VACCA CEO Adjunct Professor Muriel Bamblett AO says, “We know that our kids are over-represented in the out-of-home care and justice systems, and this puts them on a terrible trajectory to becoming one of these statistics. More is needed to protect and prevent further tragic deaths of our people in custody.”
The National Agreement on Closing the Gap includes new targets related to reducing the over-representation of Aboriginal adults and young people in the criminal justice system and is an opportunity to reflect on what is needed across the system. Aboriginal designed and led responses must be prioritised. It is unacceptable that the Victorian Government has been working towards an Aboriginal Youth Justice Strategy for four years with no plan yet released.
The recent establishment of the Yoo-rrook Justice Commission, the first ever independent truth-telling process in Australia, is an important step towards truth and justice for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Victoria. The Yoo-rrook Justice Commission will look to make recommendations for the Victorian Government to redress and address systemic injustices and promote healing for First Peoples and the broader community.
We call on politicians and governments to take immediate action to meaningfully implement all of the recommendations of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody on these recommendations
“It is evident change, and a policy overhaul is needed in our justice system, most importantly to stop deaths in custody but also to continue to work towards closing the gap and improving all outcomes for our peoples”- VACCA CEO Adjunct Professor Muriel Bamblett AO.