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Amnesty International Labels Australia’s Indigenous Deaths In Custody As A Human Rights Crisis

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Amnesty International Labels Australia’s Indigenous Deaths In Custody As A Human Rights Crisis

Amnesty International has spoken out on Australia's issue of Indigenous deaths in custody as well as the country's treatment of refugees, labelling them as ongoing human rights issues.

It comes following the shocking news that five Indigenous Australians have died in custody since the beginning of March.

The latest victim was a 45-year-old male who died at Casuarina Prison in Perth on Saturday (April 3).

A 35-year-old Indigenous man was found unresponsive in a jail cell at Long Bay Hospital in mid-March and several days later Barkindji man Anzac Sullivan died during a police pursuit in Broken Hill on March 18.

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Three days after the incident at Long Bay Jail, a woman in her 50s took her own life in Silverwater Women's Prison.

On Wednesday, the Amnesty International report was released and highlighted several of these issues that related to Indigenous Australians, as well as the ongoing issue of the treatment of refugees and asylum seekers.

The report said: "The Australian Bureau of Statistics in September showed Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people made up 29% of the prison population but only 5% of the total population."

Amnesty International Australia national director Samantha Klintworth said: "Australians like to see ourselves as living in the lucky country, and that's true for the privileged among us, but there are swathes of our community who are unable to access justice and the basic rights to which we're all entitled.

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"Our annual report shines a light on the issues and shows that while we are in many ways lucky, there is also a long way to go to ensure everyone's rights are protected."

Anzac Sullivan was one of many Indigenous people who died in police custody. Credit ALS
Anzac Sullivan was one of many Indigenous people who died in police custody. Credit ALS

Aboriginal Legal Service NSW/ACT principal solicitor Sarah Crellin had previously spoken out on the issue of Indigenous deaths in custody, saying she was devastated and furious upon hearing the news of yet another Indigenous death in police custody.

"Any death in custody is an absolute tragedy. We are devastated and furious that another precious life has been lost."

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She added that the number of Indigenous deaths in custody of late was a 'huge red flag'.

"For four deaths to occur in the space of little over a fortnight is a huge red flag that something is seriously wrong with police and corrections systems in Australia," she said.

"As we approach the 30th anniversary, it's unfathomable that more lives are being taken, with no sign of meaningful action from governments."

The report also highlighted the campaign to raise the age of criminal responsibility from 10 to 14, which is a policy that 'disproportionately impacts Indigenous youth who make up the majority of young people in prison', according to SBS.

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"Almost three in five children in detention were Indigenous. In August, the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) announced that it would be the first jurisdiction in Australia to increase the age to 14," the report read.

It also found that Covid-19 policies had, in many instances, affected Indigenous Australians.

"People in Aboriginal communities with overcrowded and inadequate housing reported being harassed by police for having too many people in one dwelling," the report noted.

Speaking of the issue of treatment of asylum seekers, Ms Klintworth said: "There are still around 1,200 refugees - previously detained offshore, now in Australia - either living in limbo in the community or detained in APODs or detention centres.

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"And there are around 250 still trapped offshore on Papua New Guinea and Nauru eight years later. This is a disgraceful human rights abuse and must end immediately."

Featured Image Credit: Flickr

Topics: Australia

Jessica Lynch
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