Indigenous Incarceration


The Hon. T.A. FRANKS (15:37:44): I seek leave to make a brief explanation before addressing a question to the Minister for Correctional Services on the topic of Indigenous incarceration rates.

Leave granted.

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS: As members are well aware, today is the annual Close the Gap Day and the report, as launched by the Prime Minister today in federal parliament, has results that can only best be described as mixed and disappointing. One area, of course, where we are not seeing any marked improvement relates to the incarceration rates of Aboriginal Australians. Indigenous Australians represent 3 per cent of the Australian population, yet 27 per cent of the prison population of our nation. Alarmingly, the representation of Aboriginal female prisoners is on the rise, up 74 per cent over the past 15 years, with Aboriginal women making up one-third of the total female prison population. My questions to the minister are:

1.What is the government doing to actively address this issue?

2.What priority will you give to this serious issue?

The Hon. P. MALINAUSKAS (Minister for Police, Minister for Correctional Services, Minister for Emergency Services, Minister for Road Safety) (15:38:53): I thank the honourable member for her question on what is this important day with the release of the Closing the Gap report. One of the statistics that jumped out at me when I was receiving my incoming brief as the Minister for Correctional Services was the drastic overrepresentation of Aboriginals within the South Australian prison population. I am advised that, at 30 June last year, Aboriginal prisoners, both male and female, made up 22.26 per cent of the prison population in South Australia. Of course, when you compare that to the last census statistic of the Aboriginal population making up apparently about 2.3 per cent of the Australian population, one is horrified at the extraordinary overrepresentation of Aboriginals within custody in South Australia.

The honourable member also rightly points out that this over-representation is amplified amongst the female population of women's prisons within South Australia. Approximately 30 per cent, I am advised, of the women's prison population in South Australia are Aboriginal, and amongst the broader community correctional population it is approximately 22 per cent. These statistics are way too high. Over-representation amongst the Aboriginal population in the prison population across the country is way too high and, as I said, a statistic that jumped off the page at me when I received my incoming brief.

It is a problem that this government has been conscious of for a period of time that goes well before, obviously, myself becoming a minister. Late last year, the Hon. Gail Gago and the former minister for correctional services launched the Department for Correctional Services women offender framework, an action plan to specifically target women offending, with the objective of trying to reduce women offending and, in turn, reduce the female population of prisoners throughout South Australia. Although that is not necessarily specifically tasked with looking at Aboriginal incarceration rates, it does look at women offending as a whole and trying to reduce that as best as we possibly can.

To address the issue more broadly, I will be meeting with Department for Correctional Services in light of these statistics that I have drawn to the council's attention to see what more can be done in this particular area and as more initiatives come to light I will certainly be happy to share them with the Hon. Tammy Franks. Furthermore, if she would like to take up the opportunity to meet with me and the department and then we can go through some of those issues that she might have a particular passion for, I would be more than happy to facilitate that.

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