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6 Shocking Facts About Indigenous Imprisonment In Australia

We are better at putting Indigenous people in prison than keeping them in school.

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1. The number of Indigenous people in jail is skyrocketing.

Dan Bannister / Getty Images

In the past 10 years the rate of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander imprisonment has increased by 88%, compared to the non-Indigenous imprisonment rate which has increased by 28%.

Indigenous Social Justice Commissioner Mick Gooda says the situation is absolutely unacceptable.

"I've got to invent new adjectives to describe what we've got at the moment; disaster, emergency. The government's got to start listening to us."

"It's a national crisis" - Kirstie Parker, National Justice Coalition.

"Change the Record" launch.

Sixteen of the country's leading Indigenous welfare and legal groups, known as the National Justice Coalition, launched the "Change the Record" campaign in Sydney today.

They're hoping to stop the soaring Indigenous incarceration rate, which has reached an all time high, and to lobby state and federal governments to invest in early intervention programs to prevent crime.

National Justice Coalition co-chair Kirstie Parker told BuzzFeed News, "Surely the place of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people is not in prison in these numbers, [the place] is safe in our families and in our communities."

2. There's a massive disparity with the rest of Australia.

Grenville Turner / AAP

Indigenous Australians only make up 2% of the Australian population, yet they make up more than 27% of the nation's prison population. In the Northern Territory 90% of the prison population is Aboriginal.

3. Young Indigenous people are not scared of prison.

Kobie Duncan

Young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders are 24 times more likely to be incarcerated than non-Indigenous young people. Half of Australia's juvenile detention population identify as Indigenous.

Seventeen-year-old Kobie Duncan (pictured) could have been one of those statistics. Kobie started taking drugs at 13 and at 16 he overdosed on ecstasy. He says that was a wake up call and he now wants to be a role model. Kobie says prison is not a deterrent for many Indigenous youths.

"Most of my family have been in prison. For a lot of my mates, that is all they talk about. My cousin, he's been in and out [of prison] all his life and calling it a second home. It hurts to hear that stuff. My own cousin said I should go to jail because it was good."


4. Indigenous deaths in custody are on the rise.

Gianluca68 / Getty Images

In the past five years, the deaths of Aboriginal and Torres Strait islanders in custody have increased due to the rising rates of imprisonment. 449 Indigenous Australians died in custody between 1980 - 2011. That's one death a month.

5. The Indigenous female prison population is growing.


The rate of Indigenous women being incarcerated has jumped to almost 60%. Currently Indigenous women make up more than 34% of the female prison population.

6. There are more people in prison than in schools.

Grenville Turner / AAPIMAGE

Australia is better at keeping Indigenous people in prison that in school or university.

Nationally, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men are twice as likely to be in prison than in university.

The Indigenous re-imprisonment rate is almost 60%, while the school retention rate for Indigenous people in school is only 46%.

BuzzFeed News has requested exact prison population numbers from the relevant government agencies.