In 1991, a Royal Commission was established to investigate the high number of aboriginal deaths in custody. It was expected that police brutality and dilapidated prison conditions would be the finding and that these situations would be corrected. After a detailed investigation, no such finding emerged, and instead a more frightening and devastating reality dawned on the Australian public.
The Royal Commission found that of the ninety-nine Aboriginals who had died in custody;
- the median age was just twenty-nine years
- eighty-three were unemployed at the date of last detention
- they were uneducated, only two had completed secondary level
- forty-three of them experienced childhood separation from their natural families through intervention by the State authorities, mission or other institutions
- forty-three had been charged with an offence at or before aged fifteen and seventy-four at or before aged nineteen
- forty-three had been taken into last custody directly for reasons related to alcohol
- the standard of health varied from poor to very bad (the average age of those who died from natural causes was a little over thirty years)
- their economic position was disastrous and their social position at the margin of society
- they misused alcohol to a grave extent (of the twenty-two deaths by hanging in police cells, nineteen at death had a blood alcohol level of 0. 174 per cent or over, mostly much over)
(Information taken from the Royal Commission report: http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/special/rsjproject/rsjlibrary/rciadic/rciadic_summary/rcsumk01.html)
It depicts a dire situation of injustice and despair. Suicide became a viable option, and that is a rebuke to us.
That was 1991. They situation has not improved.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander persons comprise 2.4% of the Australian population, but makes up 22% of the Australian prisoner population. This is a rate of 1,561 per 100,000 of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adult population imprisoned at any time, compared with the overall Australian incarceration rate of 163 per 100,000 adult population.. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders are twelve times more likely to be incarcerated than a non-Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander citizen. (Australian Bureau of Statistics, December 2005. Prisoners in Australia, Census June 2005.)
This is unacceptable. Who are we as a nation to talk about human rights? Or...said in a way that has more authority...how dare we look at the speck in our neighbours eye when there is a giant plank in our own. Let's find a way to take the plank out!!! Investigate the solutions, raise money for a project, create awareness, do something! I don't want to write this blog in another 17 years!!!
Think and pray it over,