This Week on Deadly Sounds
The final report of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody was signed on 15 April 1991. After its three and a half year investigation, the Royal Commission made 339 recommendations. Did things improve in the years to follow?
Not according to Dr Don Weatherburn, Director of the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research, our special guest on Deadly Sounds this week.
Dr Weatherburn has spent 26 years looking at figures and visiting Aboriginal towns and settlements around the country. The culmination of his research and resulting statistics are outlined in his new book, Arresting Incarceration.
“By the time they’re aged 23, three quarters of the NSW Indigenous population will have been detained by police compared with 17% of the non-Indigenous population,” says Dr Weatherburn.
“A quarter of the Indigenous population in NSW and just 1% of non-Indigenous population will have ended up in custody, and that’s replicated right around the country.”
Sadly, in this regard, the situation in Australia is worse than those of Indigenous people in both Canada and New Zealand.
While Arresting Incarceration explores these sad realities, Dr Weatherburn remains optimistic.
“I think the thing that gives, and should give, most people hope is to remember this: the vast majority of Indigenous Australians are not involved in crime, have never been arrested and never been anywhere near a prison,” he says.
“There are many, many Indigenous communities doing well, so the question we have to ask is, if that’s true, why can’t we get more Indigenous communities living peaceful, happy, productive lives rather than lives blighted by illness, drug and alcohol problems and crime?”
And what might Dr Weatherburn recommend?
“We can’t move forward without moving forward in partnership with Indigenous communities. You cannot have white people trying to foist solutions onto Aboriginal people. So the key thing, I think to remember is, whatever we do needs to be done as a partnership.”
Arresting Incarceration can be purchased online from the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS).