Blood on the hands of all Australian Senators. We will continue the call for a Joint Committee Senate Inquiry.

The Human Rights Alliance

The Human Rights Alliance, on this occasion led by its PhD Law researcher into Australian Deaths in Custody, will continue to urge Australian Senators for the need to call for a Joint Committee Senate Inquiry into Australian Deaths in Custody.

April 15 has now passed, twenty years since the release of the 339 recommendations and the Final Report from the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody. However the HRA will continue to campaign for an Inquiry and will continue to campaign for prison and police reforms, and continue to educate Australians to Australia's horrific deaths in custody record.

Any politician or expert who argues that rates of deaths in custody have improved are wrong and their mistaken judgement will cost more lives.

Australian Senators stand shamed in the fact that they have failed to heed the call for a Senate Inquiry into Australian Deaths in Custody.

Every death in custody from here onwards is blood on their hands.

Australia has thereabouts double the rate of prison deaths in custody as compared to England and Wales, and a worse record than South Africa.

Politicians and some experts have made the mistake of presuming that rates of deaths in custody have lowered from 1991 to 2011. The crude rates have increased, there is no disputing these. From an average of 71 deaths in custody per annum in 1991 we have increased to an agreed 77 deaths in custody per annum. However 2008 describes 86 deaths in custody. The increase in the crude rate average is in itself a serious concern.

The prison population of Australia has doubled from 15,000 to 30,000 from 1991 to 2011 however the Australian population has not doubled in that time. What has occurred is that rates of prison deaths in custody have been jarred and swallowed deceptively by the doubling of the prison population. There is insufficient evidence to prove that these rates would not have continued, in terms of crude rates and original averages in reference to total prison population, had the prison population remained thereabouts equivalent to its 1991 total population.

The fact remains that deaths in custody have increased. Most people who die in prison custody are pretty much those who may have committed relative minor offences, and many were unsentenced. 63% of the deaths in custody in Australia are in prisons related custody. However the 37% who die in police related custody have been neglected for any comment by our Senators and parliamentarians. Some of the most disturbing deaths in custody that have stained the Australian landscape have been, and continue to be, in police custody.

Police should not be investigating police, and similarly with prison officers. We need demarcated Inspectorates that do not work with or report to Police and Prisons.

Disturbingly, Aboriginal peoples of Australia are the most incarcerated groups of people in our world.

Disturbingly, prison populations have doubled in twenty years and disturbingly this is not in relation to any rationally explained trend - in relation to any increase in the Australian or Aboriginal populations.

Disturbingly, people die in privatised prisons, there are two privatised prisons in Australia, at more than three times the rate of the government prisons - 1.3 deaths per 1,000 prisoners each year in government prisons as compared to 4.5 deaths per 1,000 prisoners each year in the private prisons. The national average is 1.9.

There have been thereabouts 160 deaths in custody, police and prisons, since 2008 and therefore the crude totals continue to increase, the crude average is increasing, and we must not exclusively refer rates to total population numbers where there have been shocks of sudden increases, and clusters, in prison populations. This is poor math and statistical butchery.

The Greens made a horrific mistake in not calling for a Senate Inquiry and instead put up a Motion to Acknowledge the poor statistics and the increased incarceration rates. This achieved nothing and only allows more people to slip through system. For every death in custody, this must be considered as cumulative of wider endemic problems, en masse mental despair, physical intimidation, vicious hopelessness, widespread maltreatement and neglect, overcrowding, zero tolerance aggression practices, harsh sentencing regimes.

Let us consider that each death in custody may represent scores of maltreatment, abuse, injuries, mental breakdowns. Everyone is a victim, even the police and prison officers who are victims of their imposed practices and protocols, of their behaviours. Society is a victim, in terms of the divisiveness manifest, the hate, the disenfranchisment. The bigger victims are the families of those who suffer and die. And the true victim is always the person who we let die.

The Human Rights Alliance will ramp up its campaigns, and we will not desist from approaching parliamentarians, and we will continue the call for a just and civil society.

Racism, ignorances, discrimination must end in a country such as Australia, a country with a greater social wealth than other countries where there are less deaths in custody, proportionally and in crude totals.

Working towards a Better Future

We acknowledge and respect the traditional custodians whose ancestral lands we are now part of. We acknowledge and remember the horrific atrocities inflicted upon them. This is and will forever be their land.