Addressing domestic violence and child abuse within Aboriginal communities is the key to reducing incarceration rates and decreasing the chances of police custody deaths, says Alice Springs Town Councillor Jacinta Nampijinpa Price.
The focal point of the Australian Black Lives Matter (BLM) protests has been to stop Aboriginal deaths in police custody and express solidarity with black Americans after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
The rallies in multiple cities attended by tens of thousands aimed to put pressure on the federal government to reassess its efforts in reducing incarceration rates of Indigenous people and address accusations of systemic racism.
However, Price believes the problem of Indigenous incarceration rates can be solved by Indigenous communities taking responsibility for themselves and does not agree that systemic racism is the main factor.
“We need to reduce family and domestic violence as the number one cause for incarceration, and of course, if we have safe homes our children are less likely to end up on the path to incarceration,” she said.
Price is the Director of the Indigenous Program at the Centre for Independent Studies, a member of the Alice Springs town council, and a candidate for the Country Liberal Party for the next federal election.
Price believes this has the terrible consequence of ignoring the Indigenous victims of severe crimes, who are often related to their abusers.
She wrote: “Worse still, activists, politicians, and ‘progressive’ commentators, who are only too quick to condemn white male perpetrators of domestic violence, too often excuse indigenous offenders on the basis of racism and colonisation.”
According to Price, suicide is the leading cause of death among young Indigenous people, which she says is often the result of neglect and abuse. Indigenous children account for a quarter of all child suicides in Australia, she said.
Price wrote: “The focus on interactions between indigenous offenders and police is obscuring the real pain of these Aboriginal children and women, who are the victims of child abuse, neglect, domestic violence and sexual assault.”
In an interview with Sky News Price said: “The very stark reality is that our children are taking their lives because they are often fallen victim to these sorts of individuals.”
“Between 2007-2011, 26 percent of all deaths among Aboriginal children aged 0-17 were a direct result of abuse injury—that’s three times the rate for non-indigenous children,” Price wrote.
Price said that it’s not the government’s responsibility to lower incarceration rates, it’s down to individuals.
Her comments were in response to a statement by federal Indigenous Minister Ken Wyatt. In a media release, he said that he wants to lower the incarceration rates quota in his Closing The Gap (CTG) program.
CTG is a commonwealth initiative to bring the health, education, economic, justice, and other outcomes of Indigenous and non-Indigenous people closer together. The project aims to address discrimination issues as well as psychological factors caused by the changing social landscape.
Key areas of the program aim to tackle economic issues as well as justice system representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
It has a target to reduce the rate of young people in detention by 11-19 percent and adults held in incarceration by at least 5 percent by 2028.
Wyatt’s statement on June 6 also touched upon resolving the underlying factors that lead to offending as key to “addressing the number of indigenous peoples deaths in custody.”
Wyatt admitted that it takes more than money to resolve such issues. He said: “It takes commitment, it takes listening and understanding, and it takes us working together.”
Price says that while it is true that Aboriginal Australians are incarcerated at a disproportionately high rate, simply blaming racism obscures the deeply problematic issues in a number of Indigenous communities.
She also says the high incarceration rate figures are “not a result from systemic racism,” because since the royal commission into indigenous deaths (in 1991) courts are more lenient to offenders.