This year marks 30 years since the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody (RCIADIC) handed down 339 recommendations to reduce Aboriginal deaths in custody and, most significantly, to reduce the disproportionally high rate of incarceration of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples.
To our nation’s shame, 30 years later many of these recommendations have not been implemented, and Aboriginal people now die in custody at a greater rate than before the RCIADIC handed down its report in 1991. In 2020 the Northern Territory rate of imprisonment of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people was approximately forty three times the rate for non-Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people.
Recently the Northern Territory Government announced plans to introduce harsher youth justice laws. This proposed legislation, currently before the NT parliament, will necessitate the building of new remand centres that will effectively be prisons for young people while they wait for their day in court. These proposed new laws will make it harder for young people to get bail, give police unprecedented powers, and restrict the ability of judges to put children on diversion programs instead of sending them to prison.
Sign the petition: Don't abandon the NT Royal Commission
Tearfund would like to invite you to support a petition led by our advocacy partner Change the Record - a national Aboriginal led coalition of legal, health and family violence prevention experts with a mission to end the incarceration of, and family violence against, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
Change the Record is calling on the NT Government to reconsider this knee-jerk political reaction, and instead implement the Northern Territory Royal Commission  recommendations to invest in community and reduce the number of children behind bars.
We asked Steve Bevis, Tearfund Board member and former minister of Flynn Memorial Uniting Church in Alice Springs, to give some context to this petition.
I recommend this petition to you as a helpful way of using your voice and striving for a more just and compassionate world. I would also like to give you some context that might help you understand how this issue is far from being fixed.
Recently, as periodically happens, there has been a media focus on "youth crime" in the NT. While it is true that there are people in Alice Springs and other places of the NT who are afraid of the violence they are witnessing in their communities harsher penalties are not going to solve the problem.
I have seen both the fear and the broken communities first hand in my time as a Minister at John Flynn Memorial Uniting Church in Alice Springs. I have also seen how the needs, hopes and aspirations of generations of Aboriginal people have been systematically ignored and thwarted.
We, at Tearfund, know that what is needed is the deep transformation that comes through good community development. That is why we support Christian First Peoples partners to work in their communities and pray for more such work to be undertaken and funded. Meanwhile we know that incarcerating another generation of young Aboriginal children is not the answer and we call in the NT government to reconsider this legislation.
Please consider signing this petition and continue to support the work of Tearfund's partners working around Australia prayerfully and financially.
– Steve Bevis.
Previously Aunty Alex Gator has spoken to Tearfund about the overrepresentation of First Peoples in the Australian prison system.
With 27 years of experience as a prison chaplain, The Reverend (Aunty) Alexandra Gator has spent much of her life as an advocate for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Based in Brisbane, she has a passion for breaking the cycle that leads so many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people into the criminal justice system. Read Aunty Alex Gator’s article:
Tearfund has made a submission to the federal government about a Voice to parliament.
Recently Tearfund made a joint submission to the federal government's ongoing exploration of what a First Peoples’ Voice to parliament might look like. We made the submission alongside some of our partners and with a number of other Christian organisations who work with First Peoples.