There’s a national incarceration crisis impacting First Nations girls in Australia.
First Nations girls are the fastest-growing jail inhabitants, constituting 37% of the female prison population, regardless of making up solely 2% of Australia’s complete inhabitants. The each day common variety of girls in full-time custody within the 2021 March quarter was 3,302, of whom 1,247 had been First Nations girls.
The incarceration of First Nations girls is interwoven with the expertise of home, household, sexual and different types of violence towards girls. A excessive variety of First Nations girls spend time in custody unsentenced for home violence incidents that will by no means lead to a custodial sentence.
Thirty years on from the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody Report, outstanding circumstances proceed to attract consideration to the wrongful imprisonment of First Nations girls:
the case of Jody Gore, who after experiencing many years of abuse, killed her former accomplice and was discovered responsible in 2016 and sentenced to life behind bars.
Ms Dhu, who was detained after calling for assist throughout a home violence incident in 2014, solely to be detained for unpaid fines. She subsequently died in police custody from septicaemia brought on by a earlier home violence damage.
Ava, who referred to as police as a result of she feared for her security after a combat along with her son in 2020. She was misidentified by police as the first aggressor and spent 5 weeks in custody.
These circumstances draw consideration to the connection between the a number of types of violence First Nations girls expertise, and incarceration.
Hyperlinks with home violence
As much as 90% of women in jail have skilled home and household violence. Most First Nations girls in jail report experiencing a number of types of violence at completely different occasions of their life.
Some had witnessed and skilled household violence as youngsters and gone on to expertise sexual assault, social isolation and bodily intimate accomplice violence as young people and adults.
Trauma from these experiences contributes to different danger components for incarceration, equivalent to poor psychological well being, substance misuse, unemployment and low schooling. These components disproportionately have an effect on First Nations girls and are linked to their own offending.
Twenty years in the past, a report by the NSW Aboriginal Justice Council discovered that no less than 80% of First Nations girls linked earlier abuse to their offending. This report revealed sexual abuse was “a central function of pathways into offending”.
Home and household violence can also be driving the incarceration of First Nations girls by means of misidentification by police and different authorities.
Usually, girls who’ve skilled long-term abuse from an intimate accomplice are misidentified as the first abuser and/or are named because the respondent in home violence orders. A domestic violence order units out guidelines that have to be obeyed by the respondent — the one who dedicated home violence — to guard the particular person listed because the aggrieved.
Girls who’ve used retaliatory or pre-emptive violence in response to abuse or to guard themselves additionally come into contact with the prison authorized system. First Nations girls are additionally extra prone to encounter structural racism of their interactions with the prison authorized system.
First Nations girls misidentified as perpetrators of violence
Misidentification can have disastrous and devastating penalties for girls.
Analysis has discovered that just about half of the ladies murdered by an intimate accomplice in Queensland had previously been misidentified by police as a domestic violence perpetrator.
Alarmingly, in almost all the home and household violence-related deaths of Aboriginal individuals, the deceased particular person had been recorded as both a respondent and an aggrieved party in home violence orders.
Not solely is the misidentification of First Nations girls as the first home violence abuser driving incarceration charges, it’s costing girls their lives. Not solely are they not protected, they’re being killed, and after they attempt to defend themselves, they’re jailed.
Behind the rising incarceration charges lies a critical disaster with many Indigenous coverage concerns, such because the experiences of trauma, sexual and emotional abuse, and household and intimate accomplice violence.
We haven’t even addressed mental health issues, homelessness and entrenched social and economic disadvantage amongst incarcerated First Nations girls. Or how, ten years in the past, Australian Bureau of Statistics data revealed 67% of all First Nations girls in jail had been incarcerated earlier than, in contrast with fewer than half of non-Indigenous girls.
The info additionally confirmed greater than 80% of First Nations women in prison were mothers.
What must occur
Group-led, trauma-informed preventative help packages for First Nations girls are desperately wanted. This would come with important funding in community-based providers and housing for susceptible First Nations girls vulnerable to turning into concerned within the prison authorized system.
Systemic change is required to divert girls from getting into jail by addressing the way in which the police and prison authorized system determine main home violence abusers and reply to home, household, and sexual violence.
Finally, addressing violence towards girls requires long-term dedication to create social and cultural change by means of the promotion of gender and racial equality.