Social And Political Issues In The 1970s

2596 words - 10 pages

Discuss why Aboriginal deaths in custody happened and the importance of the Royal commission.In the late 20th century, Australia?s indigenous peoples were 29 times more likely to be put in jail than other Australians; 20 times more likely to be picked up by the police; less likely to receive bail or have legal representation in the court; and more likely to plead guilty. At the same time, indigenous peoples were less likely to be called up for jury duty than other Australians. The Aboriginal Legal Service (1970-97) provided access to legal advice and assistance for people who could not have otherwise afforded it, but it could do little to overcome injustices indigenous Australians suffered under the Australian legal system.Government concern for the higher proportion of Aboriginal people in prison began in the 1960s. By the 1970s, there were increasing question from within government and from community groups about whether this meant that Aboriginal people were more likely to commit crime or just more likely to be charged with an offence. In the 1980s, there was growing concern of the tragically hight number of Aboriginal people who were dying while in police custody. In 1989 the Commonwealth Government ordered a royal commission to investigate these matters and the general issue of the treatment of the Indigenous Australians within the Australian legal system.The Royal Commission of Inquiry into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody (RCIADIC) made 339 recommendations when it released its report in 1991. The report indicated that the same percentage of Aboriginal people died in police custody as did non-Aboriginal people. It found that the reason for the high proportions of indigenous peoples in jail was that they were more likely to be imprisoned for relatively minor offences. Its recommendations described the problems indigenous Australians encountered while in prison and the factors that had contributed to their imprisonment. These include: ? the negative and often racist attitudes of many police officers, which led to over-policing and physical and verbal abuse of indigenous peoples ? the lack of private living space for the indigenous peoples, which made the incidences of drunkenness more public than that of other Australians and which made those involved easier targets ? the much higher numbers of police on duty in areas with high Aboriginal populations, and that this in itself frequently led to hostility between the two groups.The inquiry revealed that the police and the legal system generally failed to cater for the cultural differences of Aboriginal Australians. Some may appear uncooperative because of the poor understanding of the English language or, in the case of females, embarrassment. Others, out of fear of authority figures, may be unwilling to insist on their rights they are entitled to. Aboriginal culture places a lot more emphasis on the group than the individual. Many experience terrible feeling of isolation when separated from their...

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