The 30th anniversary of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody was accompanied by rallies of mourning and outrage at the inaction from successive governments.
Since the recommendations were handed down in 1991, at least 474 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have died in custody. To put that into perspective, it means at least one Indigenous person has died in custody every single month for the past 30 years.
A true picture of Australia’s horror-show response to the royal commission, is that in the five weeks before the anniversary, five Indigenous people died in custody.
Another death occurred just last week. It’s not good enough.
While State and Territory governments are responsible for corrective services, the Joint Council on Closing the Gap has set targets to reduce Indigenous adult incarceration by at least 15 per cent and Indigenous youth by at least 30 per cent by 2031.
Closing the Gap is a Commonwealth responsibility. Where are the actions from the Commonwealth?
When a 2018 report commissioned by the Federal Government finds only 64 per cent of the recommendations have been fully implemented, it’s embarrassing.
When hanging points remain in prison cells 30 years after they were recommended for removal, it’s alarming.
When the Federal Government doesn’t even record Indigenous deaths in custody in real time, it’s a national disgrace.
Where is Federal Minister for Indigenous Australians Ken Wyatt? He has been awfully silent on the issue apart from the odd press release about Custody Notification Services.
While shadow minister for Indigenous Australians Linda Burney flew to Perth on April 15 to appear at the 30th anniversary rally and speak to attendees, Mr Wyatt tweeted a link to his opinion piece on deaths in custody.
He can certainly talk the talk, but he’s not walking the walk.
Indigenous families are stuck in a cycle of tragic inquests and lacklustre answers. Time and again we see that police, medical professionals, corrections officers and others could have done more to protect a person in their custody.
Australia’s coat of arms is meant to symbolise a nation moving forward — the emu and kangaroo were chosen as both animals can’t move backwards easily — but it seems Australia is a nation, at best, remaining stagnant, and at worst, going backwards.
Responsibility for the editorial comment is taken by NIT Editor Hannah Cross.