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Aboriginal deaths in custody to be reported in real time

Callan Morse -

The Australian government has implemented a new national system to report the deaths of Aboriginal people in custody in real time, beginning Wednesday 21 June.

Monitored by the Australian Institute of Criminology, the new dashboard will provide upâ€'to-date information on all deaths occurring in police and prison custody as well as in youth detention.

It comes 32 years since the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody, with more than 540 First Nations deaths in custody since the Royal Commission handed down its recommendations in 1991.

Federal Minister for Indigenous Australians Linda Burney said having real-time data will increase transparency and accountability at all levels of government.

"Every death in custody is a heartbreaking tragedy for families and communities and for far too long, there has been a lack of trusted information available when a death in custody occurs," Ms Burney said.

"Real-time data on deaths in prisons, police custody and youth detention centres will provide greater transparency and accountability for all governments.

"Having more timely data is a key step towards better-informed early intervention and prevention strategies to reduce First Nations deaths in custody and improve justice outcomes."

The real-time reporting measure is part of the Federal government's $99 million First Nations Justice Package announced in its 2022-23 Budget, to reduce the over-representation of First Nations people in the criminal justice system.

Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus said the Federal government is committed to reducing the disproportionate rates of Aboriginal incarceration and death in custody.

"National real-time reporting of deaths in custody enables greater public transparency of deaths in custody and accountability of all governments for their criminal justice systems," Mr Dreyfus said.

"Consistent with the central finding of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody and the National Agreement on Closing the Gap, the Government is committed to reducing the over-incarceration of First Nations people."

The new Real-Time Deaths in Custody Dashboard provides aggregate information on all deaths in custody at the national level, with details including custody type (police or prison), Indigenous status, gender and age group of the deceased included.

Senator Pat Dodson said the system will address concerns that often occur following the death of an Aboriginal person in custody.

"Timely reporting will help allay community concerns about transparency of reporting that, understandably, often follow a death in custody," Senator Dodson said.

"This new measure is just one mark of the Albanese Government's commitment to monitor and uphold the recommendations of the royal commission which reported more than 30 years ago."

The Real-Time Deaths in Custody Dashboard will be available on the Australian Institute of Criminology from 9am, Wednesday 21 June.

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