Interim conclusions from a PhD researcher in Australian Deaths in Custody
As my PhD progresses in researching Australian Deaths in Custody - I have visited Immigration Detention Centres - visited adult prisons - interviewed former detainees of the Immigration detention centres network - interviewed former prisoners of adult custodial jurisdictions.
[I have been publishing online and releasing to others - academics and news media - some of my research, questions and conclusions - I believe it is imperative that whatever little I have to contribute is out there sooner rather than later, and through forums such as Indymedia - which is developing fast as a major source of information and communication and which allows for everyone to engage and assist in awareness-raising conversations...]
My research which is seeking to provide evidence based recommendations in reducing Australia's horrific deaths in custody record - police, prison and immigration custodial - is unravelling arguments I would not necessarily have expected that I would be including in my work in that one should not expect an ability or capacity from a former detainee or prisoner who has endured chronic and acute trauma, especially where their thresholds have been 'broken', to be able to recover from it - no matter the intervention and counselling many may never be able to recover from the trauma(s).
1. It is clearly evident that people come out of prisons worse than that what they went in.
2. It is clearly evident that people come out of immigration detention worse than they went in.
3. It is clearly evident Aboriginal peoples have negative stereotypes of police custodial predicaments reinforced by an experience within a police custodial predicament.
4. Tragically, it appears that many who are released from prison custodial and immigration custodial experiences cannot overwhelm levels of trauma which have been induced or developed. It appears that there may not be recovery for many traumas - multiple traumas, acute and chronic.
5. Governments, DIAC and Corrective Services need to launch fully funded research into trauma and 'post'-trauma related studies of the police, prison and immigration custodial related experiences - my research imputes that we should be moving to the prevention of trauma and that intervention alone cannot promise remedy or any positive unfoldings.
6. A separate chapter considers The Military Emergency Response (NT National Emergency Response Bill 2007) in the Northern Territory as custodial-related, and that the prospect of recovery from the trauma described by Aboriginal peoples of the various imposts upon them by the Commonwealth government(s) may not be possible.
- Surprisingly, in wide-ranging interviews, numbering 100 high profile Aboriginal folk, there is support for the Intervention - however how to address the trauma from the implementation of the Intervention is worrisome for even many of the supporters of the Response Action - and many see that the Intervention will now compound rather than improve inter-generational problems. The trauma itself is not compartmentalised to the individual and the evidence is as clear as the light of day that it extends to family members, to the breakdown of family, to community and to the erosion of some of the community's contemporary identity (as unfolded from historical identity). Trauma counselling cannot guarantee containment of trauma.
In February 2008 Marcia Langton who like many others rejected various criticism against the Response Action, said, "Those who did not see the intervention coming were deluding themselves. It was the inevitable outcome of the many failures of policy and the flawed federal-state division of responsibilities for Aboriginal Australians. It was a product of the failure of Northern Territory governments for a quarter of a century to adequately invest the funds they received to eliminate the disadvantages of their citizens in education, health and basic services. It was made worse by general incompetence in Darwin: the public service, non-government sector (including some Aboriginal organisations) and the dead hand of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC) all presided over increasingly horrible conditions in Aboriginal communities."
The Emergency Response policy was initially insulated from criticism because of the sensitive nature of the issue and the fact that the national Parliament faces no Constitutional barriers to overruling the Northern Territory government, unlike the governments of Australia's states - this immolated any legitimate scrutiny of the policy, its effects such as trauma and what the thresholds of where that trauma would become irretrievable in reference to amelioration and remedies.
Most of those whom I have interviewed do not understand how to comprehend 'trauma' and its effects. Many who had supported the Emergency Response do not support the Stronger Futures proposition.
Part of my own interim recommendations are: The full suite of funding for the duration of a generation to Aboriginal peoples Australia-wide will eliminate Aboriginal disadvantage. The pay-the-rent proposals suggested by a number of advocates are a sound concept and are proportionate to Gross State Product and Gross Domestic Product.
My research will conclude that the Emergency Response was ill-conceived and damaging, with destructive social reach, and should never have occurred. My research can find no evidence to support the Stronger Futures legislation and that in fact evidence and various testimonies point to the erosion of community and contemporary identities and to the rise in the various traumas described thus far.
Crikey - Deaths in Custody: Why are more prisoners dying from natural causes? - Georgatos rejects the AIC’s claim that the rise in natural cause deaths is “probably linked to an ageing prison population and a prison population with more health problems than the general population”, saying that these “assumptions” need to be validated. “I have deep concerns about the attribution of manner and cause of death and therefore … [about] the classification of deaths in custody,” Georgatos said. “There is nothing natural about a person dying of causes that basic medical intervention could prevent. More than 50% of Aboriginal folk who die in prison are classified as natural cause deaths, [but] maybe what has occurred is that medical attention wasn’t flagged or their insulin dependency was not given proper care or they were maltreated or neglected.”
Crikey - Deaths in custody still rising, why? - The rate of death in privatised prisons is far higher than in state prisons, which Georgatos cites as a serious concern given the drive towards privatisation in NSW and other states. “People die in privatised prisons at three times the rate they die in government prisons: 4.5 deaths per 1000 prisoners in privatised prisons in Australia, compared to 1.3 in government prisons,” he said.
The Australian - Indonesian children in Australian adult prisons.
Mr Georgatos said he believed the boy graduated from junior high school in 2009, but he was waiting for a statement which would prove his age "beyond reasonable doubt".
He criticised the Australian Federal Police, the Department of Immigration and WA Department of Corrective Service for not trying hard enough to ascertain the boy's age. "I can't see why lawyers, legal authorities, AFP, immigration, did not pick up the goddamn phone and speak to his family," Mr Georgatos said. "Authorities could have ascertained one way or another beyond reasonable doubt he was born in 1995."
ABC Drum Interview - Indonesian children in Immigration Detention Centres and in Adult Prisons
UnderCurrent Interview - Indonesian children in Immigration Detention Centres and in Adult Prisons
The West Australian - Boy in adult jail says he is scared - "He is in the adult prison awaiting people-smuggling charges after allegedly working as a cook on a boat that carried 50 asylum seekers to Ashmore Reef in June last year. The boy is understood to be working alongside sex offenders in the prison laundry."
ABC Radio National Interview - Indonesian children in Australian Adult Prisons
The Australian - Leonora to house unaccompanied minors - "How can you call a semi-arid location, 830km from Perth, community detention?" he said. "They are too far away from the full suite of services. There isn't a psychologist resident in Leonora or heavy duty medical services."
Sydney Morning Herald - Warning of more detention centre deaths - "These centres are inducing trauma, multiple trauma, self-harm, suicide and multiple suicide attempts, clinical disorders both acute and chronic," he said in a statement.
"Unless the Commonwealth acts promptly with due regard to the rights of our asylum seekers we believe that there will be en masse riots, unnecessary suffering and trauma, and the loss of further lives."
The West Australian - Supporters rally for Albany teenager - Human Rights Alliance convenor Gerry Georgatos called for independent police inspectorates which report to the Corruption and Crime Commission or the office of the Attorney-General rather than to the police. "In lieu of the conflicting versions given by witnesses and police, what we need is to have an end to police investigating police," Mr Georgatos said.
"We have never had a successful prosecution into deaths in custody in 30 years where there have been 2056 (and where an unnatural hand by a police or prison officer was involved)." Mr Georgatos, who has done a PHD into Australian deaths in custody, said there was a "culture of cover-ups" in the WA police as demonstrated by the case of Kevin Spratt, who was tasered multiple times by police.
SBS - "Two decades, too little, too late" - nominated for UN Media Peace and Walkley Awards
The West Australian - Deaths in Custody Still a National Disgrace
"There has been an Aboriginal death in custody somewhere in Australia every month in the past 18 months. For each Aboriginal death in custody, there are eight to 10 non-Aboriginal deaths in custody. Every five days an Australian dies in custody.
How can Australia have one of the world's worst records? For every death in custody, we must acknowledge that there are scores of people maltreated, neglected and suffering."
CAAMA Radio - Aboriginal deaths in custody - Part 1
CAAMA Radio - Aboriginal deaths in custody - Part 2
Indymedia - Racism gives Australia one of the world's worst deaths in custody records - "...in Detention Centres, where thousands of self harms and attempted suicides are being committed each year. These Detention Centres have been described by psychiatrist Dr Patrick McGorrie, an Australian of the Year, as mental illness factories."
The death of Cameron Mulrunji Doomadgee - "147th Aboriginal death in custody since the RCIADC recommendations 1991"
Managing Consultant - Education, Training, Advocacy
Human Rights Practice - 0430 657 309
BA (Phil), BA (Med), BA (AIS),
G/Dip (Human Rights Ed), MHumRgts, MA (Social Justice)
Researcher in Australian Deaths in Custody
Journalist - National Indigenous Times, & freelance