Aboriginal Incarceration: the urgent need for Aboriginal community solutions

The issues go far beyond Don Dale: the Hon Bob Debus AM explores "The Things Which Must Be Done…"

The Four Corners report into the shocking treatment at the Don Dale Youth Detention Centre has rocked us. But as we all know, the issues go far beyond Don Dale.

Given recent events, the Whitlam Institute is moving forward for immediate release this latest Perspectives paper, The Things Which Must Be Done…Aboriginal Incarceration: the urgent need for Aboriginal community solutions by the Hon Bob Debus AM.

"As shocking as the images broadcast by the ABC's 4 Corners program were, the most damning indictment is the fact that these images were known and the facts of the situation in Don Dale were known," said Whitlam Institute Director Eric Sidoti.

"Indeed, the broader story of Aboriginal incarceration beyond the borders of the Northern Territory is also largely known. The solutions as difficult as they might appear to be, also might be found in our own history."

Debus's paper focuses on the "practical things" upon which reform is built and meaningful change realised.

He notes that some two decades ago the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC) proposed that a broad set of principles for Indigenous social justice and the development of relations between government and Indigenous people be negotiated and legislated. There is some precedent in the NSW Land Rights Act (1983) introduced by Walker and more recently in the landmark South West Native Title Settlement between the Western Australian Government and the Noongar (2015).

In the light of such considerations, you cannot help but think that Debus's suggestion that it would be beneficial to legislate the principles of negotiation between Government and Indigenous people (consistent with the Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous People) is a practical matter of national significance. This recognises that self-determination, properly understood, lies at the heart of the matter.

Amy Sambrooke, Communications Manager, Whitlam Institute, 0421 784  253, a.sambrooke@westernsydney.edu.au

Jenna Beck, Communications Coordinator, Whitlam Institute, 0415 190 405, j.beck@westernsydney.edu.au