Call for tools to cut indigenous rate

An inmate at Acacia Prison.
An inmate at Acacia Prison.

Acacia Prison had 402 prisoners of Aboriginal origin out of a total prison population of 1387 as at June 30.

Dot Goulding, senior research fellow in the Centre for Aboriginal Studies at Curtin University, said the exact numbers tended to fluctuate, but Aboriginal people consistently made up about 40 per cent of the population at Acacia Prison in Wooroloo and Casuarina Prison, south of Perth.

‘That compares to a total (Aboriginal) population outside of prison of about 3 per cent,’ she said.

Dr Goulding was involved in a pilot program for restorative justice at Perth Magistrates Court from 2000 to 2002 and said despite the program’s high success rate, it had not been implemented across the board for adult Aboriginal offenders.

Restorative justice focuses on reducing re-offending and acknowledging the harm caused to the community as a result of crime, repairing that harm through processes involving relevant parties and victims, or through restitution, community service and other reparative actions.

‘What we have doesn’t work. We should be looking at how we can heal the situation for the benefit of the victim, offender and community instead of how we can punish them,’ Dr Goulding said.

‘Some of the factors that lead to the high numbers of imprisonment are social exclusion, poverty and displacement from culture and land.

‘These factors don’t excuse crime but they can explain it.’

Dr Goulding said she believed Aboriginal people were often targeted by police and kept under heavy scrutiny.

‘If you are constantly looking for crime you will find it,’ she said.

Mr Eggington agreed Aboriginal people were over-|policed, profiled and targeted.

‘There is a long history with the way governments have dealt with us as a people ” invasion, colonisation and segregation ” and these policies have had an inter-generational impact,’ he said.

‘Aboriginal people need to be given their rights as the first people of this country’