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30 years since the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody

30 years since the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody

A moment to reflect 

At this time we navigate the grief and trauma that pervades us as we mourn 30 years since the findings of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody.

We take time for our brothers, sisters, parents and children whose rights have been stolen as they lose their lives in the care of the state. We reflect on our efforts to mobilise our communities and to change the hearts and minds of those in power. We continue our fight to dismantle the patchwork legislation which has so often failed to protect us, and that has been continually white anted by succeeding governments which fail to listen to the strength and power that lies with our peoples.

Our existence is resistance. No service was ever given to us, we had to fight for it, staff and service it ourselves. Carrying coffins through the streets, we demanded not just answers but solutions from our government to stop the murder of our people. And yet, 30 years on, the disease of racism still plagues our system of injustice. In the last few weeks we have seen a tragic and devastating spike in the number of deaths in custody. 54% of all mob deaths in custody are whilst in remand, in “protective custody” or while being arrested or pursued. People who have not been charged as guilty, yet were sentenced to death by our justice system.

Today, we remember them. Everyday, we fight for, and alongside them. We can do better. We must do better.

So as you reflect on the trauma of our histories and dare to imagine a better future for tomorrow I must ask, nunga dunga wunar? Which in the language of the Anaiwan peoples means what brings you here?


Our submission on Aboriginal deaths in custody

  • Highlight previous reports and inquiries that have set out recommendations for addressing the
    over-incarceration of Aboriginal people but have not been implemented
  • Set out some of the key drivers of contact with the criminal justice system
  • Discuss the need for government to lead a shift away from harmful and punitive narratives
    towards a more informed public discussion on criminal justice
  • Present community-led justice reinvestment as a framework for addressing the complex and
    multifaceted drivers of contact with the criminal justice system
  • Outline the approach taken by the Bourke community through Maranguka
  • Summarise some of the exploratory work and findings through our justice reinvestment work in
    Moree and Mt Druitt.

We also include insights of Aboriginal people including young people we work with, many of whom can speak to the harms, from their direct experience, of policing and custody.


Labour’s commitment to expand justice reinvestment

On the 30th Anniversary of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody. The Australian Labour party announced a suite of substantive measures to address the socio-economic drivers of crime and recidivism. These substantive measures included a $79 million commitment to expand justice reinvestment across 30 communities from 2023. This funding would provide support for rehabilitation services; family or domestic violence support; homelessness support and school retention initiatives. The announcement included recognition of the importance of greater government and service sector co-ordination alongside the need for justice reinvestment to be tailored to local needs and developed in partnership with Aboriginal communities and organisations. ILabour also announced their support to establish an independent national justice reinvestment unit to assist communities and evaluate program performance.In the 2021 Federal Budget Announcement, the Coalition did not commit any funding towards furthering site-based justice reinvestment or continuing the expansion of a national justice reinvestment body.


Our response to Labour’s commitment 

Just Reinvest NSW welcomes the commitments of Labor, and the recommendations of the NSW parliamentary committee for funding community-led justice reinvestment.

A shift in the allocation of resources away from punitive policing and prison into place-based community-led change, along with policy and legislative reforms, will generate savings, allowing for further ongoing ‘reinvestment’ away from harmful, ineffective prisons and into supporting individuals and families to build safer, stronger communities.

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