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2011 Media Release: Over representation of young Indigenous people in the criminal justice system needs to be urgently addressed

Aboriginal Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner Mick Gooda has welcomed the release of a report which highlights over-representation of young Indigenous people in the criminal justice system as one of the most neglected but urgent issues to be addressed in efforts to overcome Indigenous disadvantage.

Commissioner Gooda said the Standing Committee on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs Report, Doing Time-Time for Doing released today, looked holistically at the range of issues impacting on over representation, including health, education, employment and substance abuse.

“Importantly, this report recognises that many of these issues are made worse by a lack of Government coordination and engagement with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples,” Commissioner Gooda said.

“I particularly welcome the report’s recommendation that justice targets be included in the COAG Close the Gap Strategy. The Commission also made this recommendation in the 2009 Social Justice Report.”

Commissioner Gooda said while the current Closing the Gap initiatives in areas such as health, education and employment were welcome and would have a long-term positive effect on reducing imprisonment, targets addressing the current over-representation of young Indigenous people were crucial.

“We must act now before we lose another generation to the criminal justice system,” Mr Gooda said.

He said COAG justice targets would provide accountability as well as greater cooperation between Commonwealth and State and Territory governments.

“I would also urge governments around Australia to act now on the Report’s recommendation to support justice reinvestment through further research on its implementation in Australia, as well as investment in mapping offending to identify areas of particular need.”

Commissioner Gooda said justice reinvestment provided the potential to radically reduce the over-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people in the criminal justice system by reorientating the system to early intervention, diversion and community support instead of imprisonment for non-serious offenders.

“The Doing Time-Time for Doing Report provides governments with a blue print for reducing the over representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people in the criminal justice system. I urge governments around Australia to implement these recommendations as soon as possible.”

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Media contact: Louise McDermott (02) 9284 9851 or 0419 258 597