Because the forum by Julie Tongs OAM of Winnunga Nimmityjah Aboriginal Health Service and Jon Stanhope, former ACT Chief Minister had to be cancelled, we are including the following information re the high Aboriginal population in our ACT prison system:
Indigenous Canberrans are now 23% of the ACT’s prison population even though they make up only 1.6% of the ACT population.
On 24 August 2004, when the ACT prison was being planned, the Chief Minister told the Legislative Assembly that indigenous people made up “approximately 9 per cent of the ACT prison population”.
That proportion was then regarded as “unacceptable”. How much less acceptable is the situation 14 years on?
According to the 2020 Productivity Commission:
In the ACT, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders are imprisoned at the rate of 2,124.1 per 100,000 of the indigenous adult population, compared with 112.2 per 100,000 for the non-Indigenous population (the so-called crude rates).The rate adjusted for differences in population age structure is 1,602.5, compared with a rate of 107.6 for the non-Indigenous population.
The ACT indigenous corrections age standardised rate is thus 14.9 times greater than for the non-Indigenous population. Rates that do not take age profile differences into account are 18.9 times greater (only Western Australia, at 19 times, is worse).In 2004 the Chief Minister could claim the indigenous imprisonment rate in the ACT was “lower than the national average”. Not now.
In the context of COVID-19 virus, the large number of indigenous Australians in the overcrowded ACT prison evokes the historical memory of widespread death of aborigines from diseases introduced by the European invaders.
Further information on prison reform and on the Coronavirus and Aboriginal Health can be found at the following link to the March 2020 Winnunga Nimmityjah AHCS newsletter: