Source: The Mercury, 17 December, 1996, p.8


Alarm at young
blacks' detention

FAR too many Aboriginal and 
Torres Strait Islanders were in 
juvenile detention centres and the 
problem must be overcome to pre-
vent a new generation becoming 
entangled in the justice system, a 
study warned yesterday.

   Although indigenous Aust-
ralians made up just 2.6% of the 
10-17 age group, they accounted 
for 36% of young people in juvenile 
detention centres in June this 
year, the Australian Institute of 
Criminology study found.

   As well, indigenous youngsters 
were 21 times more likely to be 
held in custody than their non-
indigenous counterparts, up on the 
17 times more likely rate recorded 
in a previous study in 1993.

   "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 so starkly racially differen-
tiated is positively harmful to 
Australia's future," said AIC direc-
tor Adam Graycar.

   The surge of indigenous births 
in the 1980s would provide an even 
bigger pool of potential graduates 
from the juvenile justice to adult 
corrections systems.

   "The long-term effects of involve-
ment with the criminal justice 
system on individuals, on families, 
on indigenous communities and on 
the nation as a whole are cause for 
concern," he said.

   "Despite the recommendations in 
the report of the Royal Com-
mission into Aboriginal Deaths in 
Custody [in 1991], over-
representation of indigenous juv-
eniles has persisted and the prog-
nosis for the future is not good.

   "Over-representation varied from 
state to state with indigenous 
Australians 41 more times likely to 
be held in custody in Queensland 
than their non-indigenous counter-
parts.

   The next highest rate was 31.6 
times in Western Australia fol-
lowed by New South Wales (20.5 
times), the ACT (19), South Aust-
ralia (13.7), Victoria (9.8), Tas-
mania (8.2) and the Northern 
Territory (3.8) - a national rate of 
21 times.

   On June 30,782 young people 
aged from 10 to 17 were in deten-
tion centres and 285 of them were 
indigenous.

   The AIC questioned Australia's 
commitment to the International 
Convention on the Rights of the 
Child and called on policy-makers 
to urgently implement specific 
strategies for indigenous youth.

   AAP


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