Wednesday, 10 June 2020
That the Senate—
(a) recognises the leadership shown by First Nations community-controlled health, legal and community services which responded to the COVID-19 crisis quickly and effectively;
(b) acknowledges that First Nations communities bear a disproportionate burden in this crisis in terms of:
(i) the additional health risk posed by COVID-19 to First Nations peoples,
(ii) the risk that COVID-19 policies will disproportionately, and unfairly, affect First Nations peoples who are already subjected to targeting by police, over-represented in the criminal justice system and experience higher rates of family and domestic violence; and
(iii) the impact on First Nations peoples' employment; and
(c) calls on state, territory and federal governments across Australia to implement the key asks of First Nations-led justice coalition Change the Record and work together to protect the health, safety and rights of all First Nations peoples during COVID-19 by:
(i) developing and implementing plans to release First Nations prisoners who are low-risk, have chronic health conditions, are on remand, are elderly, children or are for whatever reason at increased risk of
(ii) protecting the human rights of First Nations peoples in prison by ensuring access to oversight and monitoring agencies, family, legal services, mental health care, education and programs,
(iii) connecting First Nations peoples who experience family violence during COVID-19 with culturally appropriate services such as the Family Violence Prevention Legal Service,
(iv) increasing support and access to safe accommodation for First Nations families fleeing family violence to stop removals of First Nations children and ensure principles of First Nations family-led decision making are applied where-ever possible,
(v) resisting punitive policy responses to COVID-19 and the over-policing of already targeted communities, and require transparency and oversight in policing,
(vi) ensuring that First Nations peoples, including those with disability, are given equal access to high quality and culturally-appropriate health care during COVID-19, and
(vii) committing to rebuilding our justice and child protection system after COVID-19 to focus on investing in families and community, not prisons, to increase community safety and prevent child removals and further black deaths in custody.
The Morrison government recognises the leadership shown by Indigenous Australians and organisations during the COVID-19 pandemic, and the particular risk presented by the coronavirus to Indigenous communities. The Morrison government funds a range of activities to complement state and territory efforts to improve justice and community safety outcomes for Indigenous Australians, including the Custody Notification Service. We will include justice targets in the Closing the Gap Refresh that focus on incarceration rates of Indigenous Australians, and will continue to address the factors that contribute to high incarceration rates, including health, education and employment outcomes. However, the Morrison government cannot endorse measures that risk compromising the independence of our police and judicial systems, or which increase the risk of community safety, including the safety of people in Indigenous communities.