NSW Legislative Council: Inquiry into the high level of First Nations people in custody
This submission applies both ANROWS and external research to the NSW Select Committee into the High Level of First Nations People in Custody and Oversight and Review of Deaths in Custody inquiry.
This submission argues that to reduce incarceration of First Nations peoples, particularly women, there is a need to effectively respond to trauma, including intergenerational trauma associated with the impacts of colonisation, in rehabilitation and post-release support; and to provide the social supports needed to address criminogenic factors. It draws upon the ANROWS research report Kungas’ trauma experiences and effects on behaviour in Central Australia (Bevis et al., 2020) to highlight the prevalence of First Nations women who have endured violence from an intimate partner prior to their incarceration. It points out the critical role that the misidentification of First Nations women as the primary aggressors of domestic and family violence plays in incarceration using insights from Accurately identifying the “person most in need of protection” in domestic and family violence law (Nancarrow et al., 2020).
This submission recommended:
- recognising gendered differences when designing and implementing prison policies and programs, including post-prison support, to reduce risk of re-incarceration
- placing more emphasis on whole-of-family and whole-of-community approaches to family violence interventions, including early intervention for teenagers and facilitated reconnection with children upon release, in recognition of the effects of intergenerational trauma
- implementing better screening and health coordination within the prison context, including screening for complex trauma, other mental health conditions, fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) and brain injuries
- increasing the supply of public housing for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities
- including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women with lived experience of imprisonment in service program governance, design and delivery, including through the use of participatory action research to drive pilot programs within community-driven organisations
- recognising the importance of continuity of services, case management, pre-release planning and throughcare, and making these services available to those on short sentences or on remand
- developing and funding culturally relevant diversion and prison initiatives, such as the Kunga Stopping Violence Program and the Miranda Project
- ensuring there is clear accountability for decision-making about whether a protection order should be applied for, or granted
- supplementing legislation, policy and procedures around identifying the person most in need of protection with training and support that ensures police and judicial officers have the skills and resources to make accurate assessments when applying for, and granting, protection orders
- improving recognition of the link between domestic and family violence and sexual violence and behaviours that lead to contact with the criminal justice system, particularly in judicial decision-making, including sentencing. This could be done, for example, by legislating the use of a social entrapment framework.
Australia’s National Research Organisation for Women’s Safety. (2020). Re: Inquiry into the high level of First Nations people in custody and oversight and review of deaths in custody [Submission]. ANROWS.