Amnesty condemns Aborigine treatment
Thursday 11 February 1993
Two years after an Australian Royal Commission inquiry into Aboriginal deaths in custody recommended sweeping changes to the treatment of Aborigines by police and the law, Amnesty concludes that black Australians are still being incarcerated in 'grossly disproportionate numbers' and that the criminal justice system remains weighted against them.
Although the Australian government has embarked on a 10- year process of 'national reconciliation' with black Australians, Amnesty's report will embarrass Canberra, already under fire from Aborigines, lawyers and welfare groups in Australia over delays in acting on the Royal Commission's proposed reforms.
The Royal Commission investigated deaths in police custody of 99 Aborigines between 1980 and 1989. The Amnesty report was based on a visit to Australia last year by three of its officials.
The Amnesty team welcomed last year's response by Australia's federal and state governments to the Royal Commission's inquiry, in which they committed themselves to wide-ranging social and legal reforms concerning the status of Aborigines. Amnesty described this as a 'serious commitment . . . to addressing the discrimination faced by Aboriginal people in Australia'.
Yet, despite the Royal Commission's disclosure that Aborigines are arrested at 29 times the rate of other Australians, numbers of Aborigines imprisoned have actually increased since the Royal Commission began its inquiry in 1988. The most alarming rise has been in New South Wales, the most populous state, where Aboriginal prisoners increased by 80 per cent. In Victoria, the rise was 75 per cent and in Western Australia 24 per cent.
Amnesty concluded that Aborigines were still much more likely than non-Aborigines to be imprisoned for minor offences such as drunkenness. Although drunkenness has been decriminalised in most of Australia, police resort to other measures to detain blacks. Amnesty says: 'This is exacerbated by discriminatory social practices such as dress regulations which conspire to place severe restrictions on Aboriginal peoples' access to licensed hotels, bars, pubs and even theatres.'
Among the 24 Australian prisons it inspected, Amnesty singled out one in Alice Springs where it said conditions could well be judged unacceptable according to international standards. In Alice Springs, the second largest town in the Northern Territory, Aborigines outnumber non-Aborigines in prison by eight to one.
The Amnesty team described their visit to the prison: 'It was hot and, despite the open eaves, smelled strongly of sweat and urine . . . Prisoners are confined to their dormitories for 16 hours a day. During these periods, the prisoners are obliged to use toilet facilities within their caged sub-divisions with little or no privacy.'
Some prison administrators told Amnesty such conditions were 'eminently suitable' for Aborigines because they preferred to sleep communally, but that non- Aboriginal prisoners would not be able to cope with such conditions.
The Amnesty report concluded: 'Whatever may be the validity of these assertions, Amnesty International is concerned that such cultural suppositions should not be used as an excuse to provide grossly inadequate, overcrowded or degrading communal accommodation specifically for Aboriginal people.'
Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes
- 1 Why I'm on the brink of burning my Israeli passport
- 2 War is war: Why I stand with Israel
- 3 L'Oreal cuts ties with Belgium supporter Axelle Despiegelaere after hunting trip photographs
- 4 World Cup 2014: Robin van Persie appears to give his bronze medal to eccentric Netherlands fan moments after being handed it by Sepp Blatter
- 5 Iraq crisis: How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the north of the country
Ian Thorpe gay: Olympic swimmer comes out in Parkinson interview
Death in the Valley of the Dolls: Heroin overdose turns the spotlight on prostitution boom in California's tech industry
Supermoon 2014: When and why will the moon look bigger and brighter this summer?
Woman, 61, jailed for seven years after drink-drive death of cyclist
Gaza-Israel conflict: Pro-Palestinian demonstrators take to streets of London, Paris and New York in wave of protests
Sustained immigration has not harmed Britons' employment, say government advisers
War is war: Why I stand with Israel
7/7 memorial defaced on anniversary of 2005 attacks with ‘Blair lied thousands died’ graffiti
Australia facing international condemnation after turning around Sri Lankans at sea
Even when it brutalises one of its own teenage citizens, America is helpless against Israel
Socialist Worker called to apologise over ‘vile’ article saying Eton schoolboy Horatio Chapple's death is ‘reason to save the polar bears’
£50000 - £67000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# R&D .NE...
£40000 - £50000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Developer (...
£55000 - £65000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Developer (...
£55000 - £65000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Payment Dev...