Australian Institute of Criminology

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New figures on Indigenous detention

Media Release

16 December 1996

Indigenous young people in Australia comprise 2.6% of the 10-17 age population but make up 36% of the total numbers in juvenile detention centres, according to figures released today by the Australian Institute of Criminology.

The indigenous group are 21 times more likely to be held in legal custody than their non-indigenous counterparts. The figure in 1993 was 17 times more likely.

This data is from the Institute's latest Trends and Issues in Crime and Criminal Justice paper, Detaining Aboriginal Juveniles, as a Last Resort: Variations from the Theme.

Over-representation varies between each State and Territory, the figures say. The State with the highest level of over-representation was Queensland, followed by Western Australia and NSW. In Queensland, an indigenous person was 41 times more likely to be held in custody than a non-indigenous person.

The Director of the AIC, Dr Adam Graycar, said that the International Convention on the Rights of the Child states that detention should only be used as a last resort.

"The Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody argued for more involvement of Aboriginal organisations in negotiating the juvenile justice system, and for measures to reduce the separation of Aboriginal children from their families," Dr Graycar said.

"It is in nobody's interests for this high rate of incarceration to continue. Not only are there enormous costs to those young people and their families, and to taxpayers, but the long term prospects of a justice system which is so starkly racially differentiated is positively harmful to Australia's future."