More Aboriginal people will die in custody unless “real change and proper funding” for alternative programs is made by the NSW government, the state’s shadow minister for Aboriginal Affairs says.
The comment comes after two Indigenous people died in custody in NSW last week: a 45-year-old man was shot by police during an arrest in the suburb of Seven Hills and a 26-year-old man was found unresponsive at the Shortland Correctional Centre within days of each other.
NSW police and the state government are being urged to conduct a “quick and transparent” coronial inquest into the shooting death.
MP David Harris has supported the family’s call for answers and speaking on Koori Radio’s Blackchat program said an investigation – while necessary – isn’t enough.
“Unless we see real change and proper funding of alternate programs, then unfortunately these deaths will tragically continue to happen. What we’re asking for is that the government doesn’t just do another investigation, they actually start to implement some of these important recommendations that actually can make real change.”
Mr Harris said the state has a “trial program mentality” and is failing to commit to following through and expanding on programs that have been proven effective.
“We have justice reinvestment that has proven in places like Dubbo and even Western Sydney that these programs work, but they’re always a trial, they never have enough funding to continue on and be expanded.”
“They’re spending $100,000 a year [per prisoner] to keep people in jail. If a portion of that money was redirected to these programs you could keep so many people out of the prison system.”
The latest two deaths in custody have been described as “gut-wrenching” by the chief executive of the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander legal service, Jamie McConnachie.
“How many more of our people will lose their lives before we see change?” she said.