The Law Society of Western Australia welcomes the recent announcement by the State Government of a new programme to reduce the potential for suicide or self-harm among Aboriginal people in custody.
The Law Society understands that the programme will include a new free advice number which may be utilised by Aboriginal people in custody and their families, friends or advocates to seek support from an Aboriginal person or staff member with cultural awareness training.
Law Society Senior Vice President Alain Musikanth said, “The Law Society welcomes this new initiative by the State Government to support Aboriginal people in custody. This programme is particularly important given the high number of Aboriginal deaths in custody that continue to occur across the country.”
Statistics from 2012 Australian Institute of Criminology reports show Indigenous deaths accounted for approximately one-in-five deaths in custody, with some 449 deaths occurring between 1980 and 2011.
The Law Society is also encouraged by the remarks of Deputy Premier and Police Minister Liza Harvey to the effect that the Government will “continue working on tackling the issue of Aboriginal over-representation in the justice system”.
“This is vital given the very high rate of Indigenous incarceration in Western Australian prisons”, Mr Musikanth said.
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, as at 30 June 2014, Western Australia had the highest Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander imprisonment rate in the country, with 3,663.5 prisoners per 100,000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adult population.
The Law Society calls on the Government to continue addressing the high rate of Indigenous incarceration and to set justice targets aimed at promoting community safety and reducing the rates at which Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people come into contact with the criminal justice system.
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