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News > World

'National Shame': 147 Indigenous Deaths in Australian Custody

  • A group of indigenous Australians.

    A group of indigenous Australians. | Photo: EFE

Published 28 August 2018

Indigenous people make up just 2.8 percent of Australia's population; however, they represent 27 percent of the country's prison population.

A total of 147 Indigenous people, including children, have died while in custody in Australia over the past ten years. Indigenous groups have demanded immediate, independent monitoring of detention centers throughout Australia.

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The total number, which was compiled by The Guardian, has forced opposition parties to call the figures a “national shame.”

While the number of people who identify as Indigenous makes up just 2.8 percent of Australia's population, they represent 27 percent of the country's prison population.

Notwithstanding these figures, Indigenous peoples represent 22 percent of deaths in prison custody and another 19 percent while in police custody.

The investigation also revealed that 407 Indigenous people have died since the end of a royal commission that outlined ways to prevent Indigenous deaths in custody roughly 30 years ago.

Pat Dodson, an Indigenous Labor senator, said: “We are going backward as a nation. The current government is failing to show leadership and commitment to turning around the appalling state of how our justice system treats Indigenous people.”

Greens senator Rachel Siewert described the report as being “an incredibly important initiative that shines a light on this devastating issue.”

Authorities are currently investigating the death of Wayne Fella Morison, a member of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders. He died in hospital three days after scores of correction staff at an Adelaide prison beat, restrained and loaded him into a prison van to be transferred to another unit.

In another case, an Indigenous woman took her own life in 2010 after being denied medication for six weeks to treat a chronic injury and tooth abscess. While the authorities did not believe she was in need of pain relief, the coroner concluded that pain was “a contributing factor in her despair” during the final weeks of her life.

“It simply cannot be that difficult to give people in custody medical attention. How can people in 2018 be dying in prison from a tooth abscess?” Siewert said.

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