Indigenous Incarceration (S)

Legislative Council.
5th of July, 2016

NAIDOC WEEK

The Hon. T.T. NGO (15:23):My question is to the Minister for Correctional Services. Can the minister tell the house about his visit today to the Yatala Labour Prison and the celebrations taking place for NAIDOC Week?

The Hon. T.J. Stephens interjecting:

The Hon. P. MALINAUSKAS (Minister for Police, Minister for Correctional Services, Minister for Emergency Services, Minister for Road Safety) (14:23): Do you want to ask me about that?

The Hon. T.J. Stephens: I am wondering, are you are celebrating you caught one that you let go?

The Hon. S.G. Wade: They had to make room for the minister's visit.

Members interjecting:

The Hon. P. MALINAUSKAS: Let me start by thanking the honourable member for his important question. NAIDOC Week is an incredibly important event and is a time to celebrate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander history, culture and achievements. It is an opportunity to recognise the contribution that Indigenous Australians make to our country and our society, so I thank the honourable member for his interest in that.

NAIDOC stands for the National Aboriginal and Islander Day Observance Committee. Its origins can be traced to the emergence of Aboriginal groups in the 1920s which sought to increase awareness in the wider community of the status and treatment of Indigenous Australians. The Department for Correctional Services holds many significant events around the state to celebrate this week and the contribution that Indigenous Australians make to the corrections community.

Regrettably, as I have spoken about previously, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people continue to be over-represented in the criminal justice system of Australia. It is an unfortunate reflection on something that all Australians, especially those within the criminal justice sector, should be cognisant of and something that we must strive to do better on. Aboriginal people represent about 2 per cent of the total population, yet more than 27 per cent of Australia's prison population. While we continue to strive towards improving these alarming numbers, we as a government and the department as an agency cannot do it alone.

As a community, we have a responsibility, and it was fantastic to hear that the Port Adelaide Football Club and its players and community engagement officers were visiting Yatala Prison. Today, I took the opportunity to get down there and talk to players and people involved in the Port Adelaide Football Club's community engagement program and thanked them for the opportunity that they took time out of their busy schedules to visit Yatala Labour Prison today and talk to and engage directly with Aboriginal offenders to hopefully give them the encouragement, inspiration and courage that they may need to be able to commit themselves to actively engaging within programs that DCS provide which reduce the likelihood of reoffending.

I particularly really want to thank those players who took the time to attend today. Chad Wingard, Nathan Krakouer, Jake Neade, Brendon Ah Chee, Aidyn Johnson, Jarman Impey and Karl Amon took the opportunity to get to the prison today. I was there as they actively talked and engaged and spoke to many Aboriginal gentlemen there. They explained to them where they were from and the role they played within the footy club, but then they took the time to individually make themselves available to Aboriginal men who were at the prison today and talked to them. You could really see on the faces of the people they engaged with how grateful those offenders were for those players to come down and talk to them.

Whenever you witness an event or an occurrence that gives a source of hope or inspiration to those young Aboriginal men, it is only a good thing. I just want to applaud the Port Adelaide Football Club for making the effort to do that. There are a number of stories we are aware of. It was not long ago that we heard Eddie Betts' story, who plays for the other team in this state—the one I won't comment on—about his struggles with the law and overcoming adversity. It is these stories that should give hope to those currently incarcerated and provide a light at the end of the tunnel and the self-belief that they also can turn their lives around. I think Eddie Betts' story that he shared is an inspirational one.

In keeping with the football theme, today the prisoners at Mobilong will also battle it out for the Joy Wilson Memorial Shield match, a game of Aussie Rules that brings people together to celebrate NAIDOC Week. At the Cadell Training Centre, celebrations will culminate on Friday when they will hold a barbeque and open cook fire for prisoners and staff, with a band and a footy match. Joining Corrections to celebrate NAIDOC Week around the state are Aboriginal elders who work closely with the department. At Yatala, prisoners were joined by Heather Agius, Diane Sansbury and George Kenmore.

Aboriginal Elders continue to play an important role within the department, being involved in the department's spiritual programs that aim to promote healing and foster the relationship to country. Representatives from the department of the Aboriginal Services Unit, a unit established in response to recommendations that arose from the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody back in 1991, provide a range of services across the department for prisoners and offenders, and will also be celebrating around the state.

At the AWP (the women's prison) yesterday, they had a flag-raising event and morning tea, and today will be celebrating an arts, health and wellbeing project exhibition. Partnerships established with community organisations will also be actively involved in the department's celebrations, including Helping Young People Achieve, Hepatitis SA, TAFE SA, Kornar Winmil Yunti Aboriginal Corporation, APOSS (a fantastic organisation), the Tauondi College and the Aboriginal Legal Rights Movement.

Amongst the many barbecues and AFL footy matches there will also be live entertainment and education stalls. I just want to congratulate the department for their active engagement in NAIDOC Week and in recognising the valuable contributions that Indigenous Australians make to our country and our society as we as a state and nation seek to reduce the number and over-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in our corrections system.

Indigenous Incarceration

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS ( 15:30 :12 ): Supplementary: will this government commit to a target for the reduction in the number of Indigenous incarcerations, which target continues to fall?

The Hon. P. MALINAUSKAS (Minister for Police, Minister for Correctional Services, Minister for Emergency Services, Minister for Road Safety) ( 15:30 :30 ): There is no specific target that currently forms part of government policy. That being said, I thank the honourable member for her question, and I am aware of her keen interest in the subject. The government and I are continuing to learn about the complexity of this area of public policy. Recently I had the opportunity to attend the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court's forum that he held, again, at the Port Adelaide footy club, to discuss this issue. It is an incredibly complex policy area that I know the honourable member has a degree of awareness of. But in direct answer to her question, there is not currently a specific target, but I do not think the lack of a target prohibits or inhibits our capacity to continue to work in this area.

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