Custody figures an international embarrassment

Joanna Vaughan | Adelaide Advertiser | 4th November, 2009

THE FULL REPORT - Australian Institute of Health and Welfare

Young indigenous Australians are 16 times more likely to be held under supervision than non-indigenous children, a study says.

Juvenile Justice in Australia 2007-08, released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, says Aboriginal children aged 10 to 17 were 29 times as likely to be in detention and almost 15 times more likely to be under community-based supervision every day.

"Although only about 5 per cent of young Australians are Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islanders, 40 per cent of those under supervision on an average day were Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islanders," the report says.

Aboriginal Legal Rights Movement chief executive Neil Gillespie said this was an international embarrassment.

"This is a result of a number of things and one is the over policing of Aboriginal people," he said.

"Secondly and more importantly, there is the social disadvantage of Aboriginal people, and thirdly we have had all of these reports and nothing has been done.

"Governments have continually failed Aboriginal people since 1788."

The report found the number of young Australians locked up in an average day rose by 17 per cent from 540 in 2004-05 to 630 in 2007-08.

Most of the 4084 young people under community-based supervision were male and more than half of those in detention were unsentenced.

Acting state Attorney-General Paul Holloway said the Government had identified the issues of youth offending and in particular, offending by Aboriginal youths.

"That is why we accepted all the recommendations of Monsignor (David) Cappo's "To Break The Cycle" report and last year invested $11.5 million over four years to tackle the issue," he said.

"This $11.5 million investment takes direct action on Monsignor Cappo's recommendations.

"It will help address gaps and provides top-to-bottom strategies to reduce youth offending."