Senate debates

Wednesday, 17 March 2021

Questions without Notice: Take Note of Answers

Aboriginal Deaths in Custody

4:05 pm

Photo of Lidia ThorpeLidia Thorpe (Victoria, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

I move:

That the Senate take note of the answer given by the Minister representing the Prime Minister (Senator Birmingham) to a question without notice asked by Senator Thorpe today relating to Aboriginal deaths in custody.

Calling what the minister gave an 'answer' is a bit rich, because it was not an answer at all. It was more platitudes and motherhood statements about how they care about ending Aboriginal deaths in custody, how they are taking action and how they are taking them 'seriously'. And then they say that they are sorry and that it's a tragedy. What a joke. Sorry means you don't do it again. We are sick of hearing this country saying sorry and continuing the genocide that started over 200 years ago. The minister had the gall to give his nonanswer to this chamber with one of the royal commissioners, Senator Dodson, present. Words are cheap. This government's words are even cheaper. They spend thousands on an empathy consultant, and that's the best they can do? Either this government is beyond help or the consultant wasn't any good.

The government are always rolling out their absolutely discredited, dodgy Deloitte review into the implementation of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody, to congratulate themselves for implementing the recommendations. Well, that review is wrong! The review did not consult with Aboriginal people or Aboriginal organisations. It was a desktop review. Deloitte's review counted government action towards implementing a recommendation as having completed the recommendation. They couldn't even get that right. Let's be honest: they didn't even try. Yet they wheel out this absolutely dodgy review that was conducted in the dark, just so they can pat themselves on the back to tell us that they're taking action and that they care and that our lives matter. Yet three Aboriginal people died in custody last week, in one week! Well over 450 of us have died since the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody and well over 580 Aboriginal people have died in the last 40 years. There is not enough action; otherwise, it wouldn't be happening.

This country overtargets our people and has been doing so since the colonial project began in this country. Surely that constitutes ongoing genocide of this country's sovereign First Peoples? Just some weeks ago, countries at the United Nations absolutely slammed this country for overimprisoning our people. This country has targeted and overimprisoned us more than any other people on earth. The world is watching, Australia! The number of First Nations women in custody in particular has been called 'one of the most challenging human rights issues facing Australia'. Our women in this country represent the largest cohort of imprisoned people in the country, compromising approximately 34 per cent of the total number of female imprisoned people, despite making up only two per cent of the total population. Imprisoning our women, the keepers of our families, even for a day, causes immense distress and disturbance to family and community life. So many of our women are imprisoned for short sentences or non-violent offences—that is, when they are actually sentenced, because this country's prisons are heaving with thousands of unsentenced prisoners.

This country is happy to be warehousing people in prison instead of supporting them out of poverty. This is not surprising, since the first thing that the white settlers did when they came to colonise was to turn our ancestral lands into prisons for their convicts. Not only are our women being warehoused in prison, they're subjected to ongoing violence when they're there, including sexual violence. We already know that the Prime Minister doesn't care about that, now, does he? Particularly when it's happening to black bodies.

Our people have the answers and the solutions to ending our overimprisonment. Come and speak to us; don't commission Deloitte to do a nonsense review so that you can pat yourselves on the back while hundreds of us are dying in prison cells. Shame!

Question agreed to.