Corrective services in Australia need reform

CEO Social Justice Blog

At the NSW Grand Final played in Sydney last weekend, the captains of both teams were Aboriginal men. The captain of the winning team, Jonathon Thurston, has become a national hero because of his achievements and conduct on and off the field. Both men are great examples of what can be achieved with a combination of skills, hard work, training, teamwork and commitment.

At the other end of the spectrum, Indigenous men make up 23% of Australia’s huge prison population. The imprisonment rate for Indigenous people has almost doubled since the Royal Commission into Aboriginal deaths in custody in 1987, and a whopping 57% of the present Indigenous prison population are repeat offenders.

This is a serious indictment of rehabilitation services currently being provided in our prison system. Most of these men are unhappy, shamed, troubled, long term unemployed people.

According to the Australian Productivity Commission, it costs $292 per day to keep a person in prison, which is significantly higher than the average daily wage of $160 per day.

Why not introduce vocational training options including online for people in prison followed by government funded employment for graduates for 12 months on release at award rates of pay?

This would cut back Aboriginal imprisonment rates significantly and would cost no more. It’s time for reforms of corrective services in Australia and it’s time for justice to the original owners of this land.

Must we wait for another Royal Commission to stir our policy makers into action?