The “skyrocketing” levels of Aboriginal women behind bars is a national crisis being overlooked by all levels of Australian government, according to a new report.
The imprisonment rate of indigenous women has risen nearly 250 per cent since the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody, research by the Human Rights Law Centre and Change the Record reveals.
Aboriginal women make up about 34 per cent of the female prison population but only two per cent of Australia’s adult female population.
The report highlights domestic violence, biased judicial systems and a ‘tough on crime’ approach as key factors in the increasing incarceration rates.
Speaking to the ABC, founder of Sisters Inside Debbie Kilroy says she is not surprised by the findings.
In October last year the Federal Government announced an inquiry into the ‘national disgrace’ of Indigenous incarceration, drawing ire from some corners.
The Australian Law Reform Commission’s inquiry – headed by Indigenous judge Matthew Myers – is expected to deliver a final report in December.
Speaking to National Indigenous Radio in February, Judge Myers noted that one of the areas he will focus on in the inquiry is the jailing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women over unpaid fines.
In a report on Driver Licence Disqualification Reform, in 2007 Aboriginal people living in NSW were 21 times more likely to be imprisoned for unauthorised or unlicensed driving offenses than the general population.
According to the report, more than one-third of Aboriginal Legal Service Clients in the Dubbo region who received jail terms were sentenced to 12 months, compared to a 26 per cent state average.
Almost 60 per cent of ALS clients sentenced in Dubbo and circuit courts received terms of 12 months and more compared to the state average of 46 per cent.