Date: Sat, 20 Jan 1996 01:02:22 GMT
Sender: Activists Mailing List <ACTIV-L@MIZZOU1.missouri.edu>
Subject: AI: AUSTRALIA: JUVENILE ABORIGINAL DETENTION
Juvenile Aboriginal detention a key human rights concern
From Amnesty International News Service
20 January 1996
Amnesty International welcomed the Federal Government's plans
for a national conference on the over-representation of young
Aboriginal Australians in custody.
"A coordinated national response on indigenous arrest
and detention rates is a welcome step to address this key
human rights concern in Australia," according to a letter
sent today by Amnesty International to the Minister for
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs, Mr Robert
"Aboriginal youths suffer most of all young
Australians from the disproportionate effects the criminal
justice system has on their policing, arrests and detention,"
the organization said.
The current debate in Australia over record high
numbers of Aboriginal deaths in custody should refocus
attention to the key underlying issues. In particular, public
scrutiny should spotlight the high criminalization and
incarceration rates, which appear to discriminate against
indigenous Australians of all age groups, but especially of
children and people in their 20s.
"During 1995, Aboriginal teenagers reportedly accounted
for up to 60 per cent of all juvenile detainees in some
states," Amnesty International said.
The risk of incarceration for Aboriginal children is
currently 18.6 times that experienced by other Australian
youths. Young Aborigines are much more likely to be charged
initially only for minor offences such as public drunkenness
that would not normally lead to detention if committed by
While Amnesty International welcomed the proposed
conference, it felt the conference should not distract
attention from the urgent need for action on issues affecting
all Aboriginal offenders -- continuing deaths in custody and
their over-representation in the criminal justice system.
"Last year was the worst year on record for Aboriginal
deaths in custody," Amnesty International said.
According to Amnesty International"s preliminary
statistics, Aborigines last year made up only 1.3 per cent of
the adult population over 14 years of age, yet accounted for
almost 25 per cent of all custody-related deaths.
In 1987, when figures for deaths in custody were almost
as high as the current toll, the Royal Commission into
Aboriginal Deaths in Custody was created. Five years ago, the
Commission published 339 recommendations aimed at reducing
the extremely disproportionate levels of criminalization and
custodial deaths of Aboriginal Australians.
Amnesty International urges the Australian Federal and
State Governments to live up to their commitments repeatedly
made since 1992 to fully and consistently implement the vast
majority of these recommendations and to speed up efforts to
successfully reduce the rate of Aboriginal criminalization
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