Institutional Racism

Indigenous women behind bars: persecuted by the system

The treatment of criminalised women and girls in Australian prisons is deteriorating rapidly, but it is a whole lot worse if you happen to be Indigenous, writes Debbie Kilroy.

The treatment of criminalised and imprisoned women and girls is deteriorating rapidly in Australia. The Productivity Commission’s updated report on Indigenous disadvantage, which showed a huge jump in the number ofIndigenous people being imprisoned and in the numbers self-harming, is an indictment on us all — but the information isn’t new.

The prison system hides behind thousands of pages of law and polices that suggest women prisoners are treated fairly and with dignity, and that they are in prison to protect the community. This is what makes it difficult to expose the raw reality of women and girls’ exposure to systematic breaches of human rights on a daily basis behind bars. Read more HERE

* Domestic violence against indigenous women is everybody’s problem, by Louise Taylor

“Sadly, Indigenous women appear more likely to be criminalised themselves for their engagement with the systems charged with protecting them when they report family violence.

These are complex issues. No one gets that better than I do. There are layers of complexity for indigenous victims of family violence that aren’t at play for non-indigenous women. The imprint of the historically fraught relationship between my mob, the criminal justice system and the state, permeates any interaction indigenous women have with the systems in place charged with keeping them safe (and let’s be frank, those systems struggle to provide safety for non-indigenous women).

Indigenous women are often rightfully cynical of the mainstream remedies available to them when they are the victim of family violence. I know from my own experience there are racist undertones that accompany the way family violence among indigenous people is dealt with by many mainstream services and systems – there’s a ‘‘leave ’em to it, it’s their way’’ mentality that indigenous women work against to be taken seriously as if somehow victimhood is part of our cultural legacy (it isn’t).

And our own specialised services often suffer from acute underfunding.  The situation for indigenous women in some rural and remote areas is so dire that you prefer to avert your gaze. Recent figures out of the Northern Territory suggest that Aboriginal women are 80 times more likely to be hospitalised for assault than non-Aboriginal women. Eighty. Times. More. Likely.

You can imagine the frenzied response if that statistic was being played out among young white men on the streets of  Kings Cross.” Read more HERE

* Removed for being Aboriginal. Is the NT creating another stolen generation?

“Stolen generations continue across Australia. There are now more than 15,000 Indigenous children in “out-of-home care” and approximately 1,000 new children are coming into the system every year. A strong movement, led by directly affected families such as the Grandmothers Against Removals is pushing for fundamental change – for Aboriginal control of Aboriginal child welfare, an urgent national child restoration program and an end to the scandalous government neglect of community needs that underlies so many of the removals.

The passage of new permanent care orders shows just how hard this movement will have to fight. As it currently stands, forced removal of ever increasing numbers of children is one of the core policy responses by governments across Australia to the unacceptable social disadvantage facing Indigenous communities.” Read more HERE

In Canada And Australia, Aboriginal Women Reporting Disappearances Meet Entrenched Police Racism. by Amy McQuire

“Bowraville, a mission where segregation had been in full force in the pubs, cafes and local movie theatre, and one of the stops of the 1965 Freedom Rides, still held on to a less visible segregation: that which made it acceptable for a police officer (in 1990) to question a mother about whether her beloved missing daughter was really hers and belittled her concerns about her daughter’s safety purely because of her race. It is a racism that still straddles the thin blue line.

To this day, Colleen has never been found. No one has ever been held responsible for her death.

Detective Inspector Gary Jubelin, the police officer who spearheaded a second investigation into the deaths of the three children – Colleen, Evelyn Greenup (4) and Clinton Speedy-Duroux (16) – admitted that when he first began investigating the murders he himself did not take the community’s claims of racism seriously.

“The families told me right from the start in 1997 that people did not care because they are Aboriginal. I naively thought they were wrong, but I 100 per cent support what they say,” he said.

The story of Colleen Walker is not an isolated one. When Aboriginal woman Lateesha Nolan went missing from Dubbo in 2005 her family’s concerns were not initially taken seriously. Police speculated the dutiful mother-of-four, who lived for her children, may have simply run off with another man. It wasn’t until six months later, when her cousin’s partner Kristy Scholes, an Aboriginal woman from Kempsey, was found murdered in the same house where Lateesha was last seen, that police began to look more deeply into the disappearance, tying it to Lateesha’s first cousin Malcolm John Naden. ” Read more HERE

* Indigenous peoples locked into disadvantage

“WA Chief Justice Wayne Martin spoke at the Law Council of Australia symposium, pointing to one of the persistent problems that allows multiple fines to be worked off concurrently in prison. About 16 per cent of Aboriginal prisoners enter prison as fine defaulters.

“Martin says this has had disastrous consequences. “It has made it attractive for people to go to prison to work off their fines … What a great idea!”

“The death at the South Hedland police station of 22-year-old Aboriginal woman Ms Dhu, who had been detained for fine default, makes the point all too tragically. The coronial inquiry that started in late November saw evidence that she died of pneumonia and septicaemia. Footage aired at the inquest shows her being dragged from her cell and slung into the back of a police wagon while she’s paralysed with pain. An officer tells her to “shut up” moments before her death.

“Hours of footage shows Ms Dhu doubled over and moaning in pain – and ignored.

“In the 16 months since her death, no moves have been made to change the laws relating to unpaid fines, or even to distinguish between those who will not pay and those, such as Ms Dhu, who cannot pay.” Read more HERE

Domestic violence conference in Canberra told Indigenous women invisible in broken system

“Ms Braybrook said with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women being the fastest growing segment of the prison population and family violence the prime driver for child removal, it is no wonder many women fear the system.

“If they report violence then they are likely to have their children removed,” she said.

“Many of the women that we come into contact [with] in prison are in there due to crimes related to poverty or homelessness.” Read more HERE