Djirra calls on all levels of government to take urgent and dedicated action to prevent Aboriginal women entering prison, in response to the report released by the Minister for Indigenous Affairs Nigel Scullion on Wednesday into the implementation of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody recommendations.
“The Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody was silent on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women,” said Antoinette Braybrook, CEO of Djirra and National Convenor of the National Family Violence Prevention Legal Services Forum.
“This rendered us invisible to decision makers, law makers and policy makers. Aboriginal women’s experiences continue to be overlooked in this recent report.”
Djirra stands with Change the Record and the National FVPLS Forum in questioning the report’s claim that the majority of recommendations from the 1991 Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody (‘RCIADIC’) have been implemented. The review, undertaken by Deloitte, was limited to whether actions had been taken to respond to each recommendation, not whether the actions had been appropriate or successful.
“How can you claim that we’re making progress with the majority of recommendations when Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women are now the fastest growing prison population in the country?” demanded Ms. Braybrook.
“We can’t talk about the over-incarceration of Aboriginal women without talking about the disproportionate levels of family violence and criminalisation that our women experience.”
The imprisonment rate of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women has skyrocketed nearly 150% since 1991. The rate of Aboriginal women’s imprisonment has increased by more than double that of Aboriginal men and Aboriginal women are locked up at 21 times the rate of non-Aboriginal women.
Nationally, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women are 32 times more likely to be hospitalised as a result of family violence than other women. Almost ninety percent of women in prison are victims of family violence or sexual assault and eighty percent of Aboriginal women behind bars are mothers.
“The women we work with tell us stories of being forced to commit a crime by their perpetrator, or self-medicating due to trauma and then ending up in prison for drug or poverty-related crimes. Many of our women leave prison and are forced to return to their abuser due to poverty and homelessness,” said Ms Braybrook.
“Many Aboriginal women have their kids removed while they are in prison, even if only a short period of time. The over-incarceration of our women destroys Aboriginal families and communities.”
The Deloitte report also finds that the least action has been taken to respond to RCIADIC recommendations that relate to non-custodial approaches and self-determination.
“This comes as no surprise,” said Ms Braybrook. “Governments want quick fixes. We know that breaking the cycle requires significant long term investment into our communities, our organisations and our programs, like Djirra’s Koori Women’s Place.”
Djirra’s Koori Women’s Place provides culturally safe, specialist and wraparound support to help prevent Aboriginal women from entering prison, as well as post-release case-management support to link in women exiting prison with much-needed services like housing.
“The numbers of Aboriginal women in Victorian prisons are still low enough that we can turn this around. Aboriginal women already hold many of the solutions – our voices must be front and centre. Work with us towards a future where no Aboriginal woman is in prison.”
Media contact: Em Castle for Antoinette Braybrook, CEO, Djirra, 0499 490 407 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Djirra is a specialized Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisation with expertise in family violence. For more than 16 years, Djirra has been supporting Aboriginal victim/survivors of family violence and sexual assault across Victoria. Djirra provides wraparound and culturally safe legal and non-legal support for Aboriginal women in prison, as well as ongoing case-management for women exiting prison. Djirra also provides early intervention and prevention for Aboriginal women inside and outside prison that build resilience, identity and cultural strength to reduce vulnerability to violence.