Newsletter date: 5 April 2015
* Analysis / Opinion: Jack Callil, VICE United States: Why Are Indigenous Australian Kids Doing Time in Adult Prisons?
* Audio: Caitlyn Gribbin, ABC News: Children speak about being held in police lock-ups
* Analysis / Opinion: Caitlyn Gribbin, ABC News: Nearly 200 children locked in WA police station cells awaiting transfer to Perth after sentencing
* Urgent Action: Amnesty International Australia: Stop WA's Bill for the mandatory sentencing of children
* Take Action Online: Amnesty International Australia: Stop WA's mandatory sentencing of young people
* Media Release: Amnesty International Australia: 12 organisations unite against harsh WA Bill
* Joint Statement: 12 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander, community, legal & human rights organisations: Three strikes bill will result in more young people in detention
* Community Announcement: SNAICC: Strong opposition to WA bill that may increase number of youths in detention
* Analysis / Opinion: Amelia Theodorakis, YourLifeChoices: Unfair mandatory sentencing laws
* Analysis / Opinion: Amnesty International Australia: WA Bill will lock up hundreds of people - but won't reduce home burglary
* Analysis / Opinion: Amnesty International Australia: Three strikes and you're out: mandatory sentencing in WA
* Analysis / Opinion: Gerry Georgatos, The Stringer: Labor hypocrisy backs Liberal mandatory sentencing laws
* Analysis / Opinion: Calla Wahlquist, The Guardian: Law expert slams West Australian Labor for backing new mandatory sentencing
* Analysis / Opinion: Calla Wahlquist, The Guardian: New burglary laws will jail more Aboriginal people in WA, experts fear
* Background Lecture: Ms Tammy Solonec (LLB), The Law Society of Western Australia: 'Justice Reinvestment - What difference could it make in WA?'
* Background: Gerry Georgatos, The Stringer: Australia's Aboriginal children detained at the world’s highest rates
* Background: Gerry Georgatos, The Stringer: Australia; locking up its First People for 200 years
* WGAR Background: Justice Reinvestment, Aboriginal imprisonment and Aboriginal deaths in custody
WGAR News Public Google Group: https://groups.google.com/forum/?hl=en-GB#!forum/wgar-news
WGAR News - Working Group for Aboriginal Rights (Australia)
- Analysis / Opinion
VICE United States: Why Are Indigenous Australian Kids Doing Time in Adult Prisons?
27 Mar 15: "This week a Freedom of Information Report obtained by the ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) revealed children as young as 12 are being held in adult prison cells in Western Australia. The report showed that in the past three years, 197 children in Kimberley had spent up to two nights in regional prisons cells. ... In a phone call with VICE, the CEO of the Aboriginal Legal Service of Western Australia, Dennis Eggington, insisted change is needed in Western Australia to prevent their youth from ending up in juvenile detention. ... " By Jack Callil
ABC News: Children speak about being held in police lock-ups
23 Mar 15: "Nearly 200 children were locked in police station cells in Western Australia's Kimberley over the past three years. Most of those children were Indigenous and were in the lock-up before being transferred to juvenile detention in Perth. Amnesty International says the practice of locking up 10 to 17 year olds is a key human rights issue." Caitlyn Gribbin; Source: AM
- Analysis / Opinion
ABC News: Nearly 200 children locked in WA police station cells awaiting transfer to Perth after sentencing
23 Mar 15: "Nearly 200 children have been locked in police station cells in Western Australia's Kimberley in the past three years, according to freedom of information documents. The children, who were remanded in custody after being sentenced to detention in Perth, were held in police lockups in Broome and Kununurra while waiting to be flown to the city. ... "Police lockups are made for adults, they're not made for children," Ms Solonec [Amnesty International Australia's Tammy Solonec] said. "They're not suitable places to hold children and there needs to be alternatives. ... "" By the ABC National Reporting Team's Caitlyn Gribbin. She is based in Perth after working in Mount Isa, Bundaberg and Brisbane. Caitlyn has won two Walkely Young Australian Journalist of the Year Awards (radio).
- Urgent Action
Amnesty International Australia: Stop WA's Bill for the mandatory sentencing of children
The WA Parliament is going to vote on a Bill that will lock at least another 60 kids in prison each year. Call the Minister for Police today.
"Why do we need your help?:
The Western Australia Parliament is debating a Bill that will expand the "three strikes and you're out" laws for home burglaries. The Criminal Law Amendment (Home Burglary and Other Offences) Bill 2014 will have serious consequences for young people. The changes would mean that instead of offering rehabilitation or other community-lead alternatives, judges would have no choice but to lock up young people. WA's Indigenous young people would be at particular risk. ...
Update: The Bill passed the Lower House on Thursday 19 March. It could be passed in the Upper House and come into law as early as Thursday 26 March. Your action now is critical. Take action today and call on the Attorney General Michael Mischin to stop this Bill."
- Take Action Online
Amnesty International Australia: Stop WA’s mandatory sentencing of young people
"Western Australia (WA) locks up Indigenous young people at the highest rate in Australia. Despite this, the WA Government hopes to pass a 'Home Burglary Bill' which, if successful, will send more young people between the ages of 16 and 17 to prison, and won't reduce burglaries. WA’s Premier Barnett is gutting our young peoples' futures. Tell him to scrap the Home Burglary Bill now. Indigenous young people in WA are already 58 times more likely to be in detention than other young people and if the Bill passes, judges will have no choice but to lock up even more of them. This Bill would not only contravene the Convention on the Rights of the Child, it would label young people as criminals incapable of reform and would leave them no pathways - except towards a prison cell. Tell WA’s Premier Barnett that it’s time to solve problems, not lock young people up."
- Media Release
Amnesty International Australia: 12 organisations unite against harsh WA Bill
18 Mar 15: "Amnesty International and 11 other Indigenous and legal organisations have sent an open letter to the Western Australian government urging it not to pass the controversial Criminal Law Amendment (Home Burglary and Other Offences) Bill 2014 in its current form.
Calls to withdraw bill:
The organisations have called on WA Premier Colin Barnett, Attorney-General Michael Mischin and Minister for Police Liza Harvey to withdraw the bill, or at least amend it so as not to apply to children.
The 12 National and local WA organisations are united in their condemnation of the Bill, which they say "expands the mandatory sentencing regime in Western Australia, including for 16–17-year-olds. This will adversely affect Aboriginal young people who are already massively over-represented in the justice system. In 2013-2014 Indigenous young people made up 78.3 per cent of all young people in detention in Western Australia, and were 53 times more likely to be in detention than non-Indigenous young people. ... "
- Joint Statement
Three strikes bill will result in more young people in detention
Joint statement to the Western Australian Government on the Criminal Law Amendment (Home Burglary and Other Offences) Bill 2014
18 Mar 15: "We write to raise serious concerns about the Criminal Law Amendment (Home Burglary and Other Offences) Bill 2014, and to urge you not to pass the Bill in its current form.
The Bill expands the mandatory sentencing regime in Western Australia, including for 16-17 year olds. This will adversely affect Aboriginal young people who are already massively over-represented in the justice system. In 2013-2014 Indigenous young people made up 78.3 per cent of all young people in detention in Western Australia, and were 53 times more likely to be in detention than non-Indigenous young people. ...
The Convention on the Rights of the Child states clearly that the arrest or imprisonment of a child, ‘shall be used only as a measure of last resort and for the shortest appropriate period of time’. The Committee on the Rights of the Child has said that mandatory sentencing laws are contrary to international law. ...
We need solutions that work to increase community safety in WA without continuing the disproportionate and harmful detention of Aboriginal young people. Investing in Aboriginal-led and culturally relevant prevention, early intervention and diversion programs that target at-risk youngpeople is the best way to do this. ... " This statement is endorsed by 12 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander, community, legal and human rights organisations
- Community Announcement
SNAICC - Secretariat of National Aboriginal and Islander Child Care: Strong opposition to WA bill that may increase number of youths in detention
31 Mar 15: "The organisations are united in their condemnation of the bill, which they say "expands the mandatory sentencing regime in Western Australia, including for 16–17-year-olds. This will adversely affect Aboriginal young people who are already massively over-represented in the justice system. ... ""
"The letter is signed by:
* Aboriginal Legal Service of Western Australia (Inc)
* Amnesty International Australia
* Australian Lawyers Alliance (WA)
* Australian Lawyers for Human Rights
* Australians for Native Title and Reconciliation (ANTaR)
* Civil Liberties Australia
* Deaths in Custody Watch Committee of Western Australia Inc
* Just Reinvest NSW
* Mens Outreach Service
* Mowanjum Aboriginal Corporation
* National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services (NATSILS)
* Western Australian Network of Alcohol and other Drug Agencies (WANADA)"
- Analysis / Opinion
YourLifeChoices: Unfair mandatory sentencing laws
2 Apr 15: "Concerns have arisen about a plan to extend mandatory sentencing under Western Australia's controversial ‘three strikes’ laws. The 'three strikes' law will apply to the cases where a mandatory minimum one-year sentence will be given to young people for home burglaries, ... Mandatory minimum sentencing will prevent judges from taking into account extenuating circumstances when handing down a sentence. If passed, however, the legislation will put pressure on already overcrowded prisons. ... " Amelia Theodorakis
- Analysis / Opinion
Amnesty International Australia: WA Bill will lock up hundreds of people - but won't reduce home burglary
26 Feb 15: "The proposed ‘Home Burglary Bill’ currently being debated in WA Parliament will have a disastrous impact on the already soaring prison incarceration rates of Aboriginal people. It will cost Western Australia $93 million, and evidence shows it won’t reduce burglaries, said Amnesty International today. ... "In fact, by sending more young people to prison where they will meet experienced criminals, learn more about crime, and come out hardened and angry, this bill may actually increase crime in the community.""
- Analysis / Opinion
Amnesty International Australia: Three strikes and you’re out: mandatory sentencing in WA
24 Feb 15: "Western Australia (WA) locks up Indigenous young people at the highest rate in Australia. Julian Cleary, a Campaigner in our Indigenous Peoples' Rights Team, explains the impact the proposed Criminal Law Amendment (Home Burglary and Other Offences) Bill 2014 would have on Indigenous young people in WA and what you can do to help. ... Rates of recidivism (or relapse) for Aboriginal young people are 90 per cent and criminologists say that the best way to deal with youth offending is to address the underlying causes. Detaining young people only makes them more likely to offend as adults. ... "
- Analysis / Opinion
The Stringer: Labor hypocrisy backs Liberal mandatory sentencing laws
28 Feb 15: "The Western Australia Labor Party sells itself at just about every coalface rally as opposed to the incumbent Government’s draconian sentencing laws. ... In Parliament they supported additional mandatory sentencing laws which will see many more jailed with the minimal natural justice availed. Mandatory sentencing laws are about zero tolerance, a ‘we are not interested’ in excuses, not interested in your form and content, your life’s history, your circumstance, not interested in mitigating factors. ... " By Gerry Georgatos, a life-long human rights and social justice campaigner, a multi-award winning investigative journalist
- Analysis / Opinion
The Guardian: Law expert slams West Australian Labor for backing new mandatory sentencing
26 Feb 15: "Indigenous justice academic accuses Labor of cowardice over new three-strike policy making it more likely people will go to jail after first court appearance ... Professor Harry Blagg, associate dean of research at the University of Western Australia’s law school, said the proposal to double the mandatory sentence under the state’s "three strikes" laws was "appalling" and Labor’s response was "hypocritical". ... " Calla Wahlquist
- Analysis / Opinion
The Guardian: New burglary laws will jail more Aboriginal people in WA, experts fear
24 Feb 15: "Bill set for debate would double the mandatory penalty for repeat burglars and toughen criteria under the state’s ‘three strikes’ laws ... Western Australia is on the brink of passing new burglary laws that lawyers say will put more Aboriginal people behind bars. ... It would also double the mandatory penalty for repeat burglars under the state’s "three strikes" laws to two years’ jail and change the rules so that a person does not have to go before a magistrate to get a "strike". ... " Calla Wahlquist
- Background Lecture
2014 Sir Ronald Wilson Lecture:
Ms. Tammy Solonec (LLB), The Law Society of Western Australia: 'Justice Reinvestment - What difference could it make in WA?'
5 Aug 14: "So, in summary, I have today outlined the experiences of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People in the justice system and touched on the underlying causes for overrepresentation. I noted that the trajectories for incarceration is expected to increase significantly over the next 20 years and that there is an urgent need for reform now. I then explained the concept of Justice Reinvestment as a framework for the reform of the justice system. The framework, which was developed in the US, is aimed at diverting people from crime in high-risk communities, especially repeat offenders and serves to actually reduce crime as well as the number of people incarcerated. ... "
The Stringer: Australia's Aboriginal children detained at the world's highest rates
1 May 13: " ... Western Australia’s juvenile detention rates are the highest in the nation. And Aboriginal children bear the predominant burden. In comparison to non-Aboriginal children they are disproportionately locked up and at rates that beggar belief. Former Western Australian Inspector of Custodial Services, Professor Richard Harding recently described Western Australia as the ‘State of Imprisonment.’ But what needs to be highlighted are the horrifically high rates of Aboriginal imprisonment in Western Australia - the world’s worst for a particular peoples, worse than the last years of Apartheid South Africa for its black peoples. ... " By Gerry Georgatos
" - Gerry Georgatos is a PhD researcher in Australian Custodial Systems and Australian Deaths in Custody. He is a prison reform advocate who believes that children and adults should not be incarcerated for non-violent offences. He has visited prisons on a number of occasions to inspire the incarcerated to various opportunities pre-release and post-release."
The Stringer: Australia; locking up its First People for 200 years
21 Feb 15: "Australia is the mother of all jailers of its First Peoples. When one in 13 of Western Australia’s Aboriginal adult males are in prison then we know that their jailing is racialised. ... So while Governments refuse to spend on overcoming disadvantage then there is only one solution - more police, more law and order and hence more jails. By as early as 2025 the Australian prison population will comprise one in every two inmates of a First Nations person. This is where it is heading. Nationally, one in 55 of First Peoples are in jail today, with more than 1 in 20 having been before the criminal justice system. This is the world’s worst such racial narrative." By Gerry Georgatos
WGAR Background: Justice Reinvestment, Aboriginal imprisonment and Aboriginal deaths in custody
(last updated: 4 April 2015)
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WGAR: Working Group for Aboriginal Rights (Australia)
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