Incarceration, Suicide, And Child Removal Rates Continue To Rise In Indigenous Communities

A new report by Closing The Gap highlights an urgent need for change.

Closing The Gap

Want more Junkee in your life? Sign up to our newsletter, and follow us on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook so you always know where to find us.

Incarceration, child removals, life expectancy, and death by suicide rates continue to climb within First Nations communities, according to the Federal Productivity Commission.

— Content Warning: This article contains discussion of suicide. — 

The Closing The Gap agreement was signed in July 2020, and it set up targets based on a wide variety of socio-economic concerns that were identified by Indigenous advocates. The Commission released their first annual compilation report on Thursday, one year on.

Despite the goal to drop the Indigenous incarceration by 15 percent in the next decade, the rate per 100,000 people actually increased by 0.17 percent between 2019 and last year, according to the Sydney Morning Herald. Earlier this month, inmates at Parklea Prison in NSW drew attention to the Black Lives Matter movement during an onsite protest, taking a stand against the police and justice system.

In response to the findings, the report said “the current status does not mean a target will (or will not) be met in the future” as longer-term trends can’t be identified with only one year’s worth of data.

Additionally, last year’s ‘Family Matters’ report said the number of Indigenous children in out-of-home care will double in the next decade if state and federal governments don’t address this overrepresentation. The suicide rate for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders also rose by 2.2 percent per 100,000 people between 2019 and 2020, the Campbelltown-Macarthur Advertiser said.

Autonomy to determine and address their own lives, families, and needs has always been at the forefront of First Nations activism. “Until you start acknowledging the war crimes that are continuing in this country and will continue to happen, we’ll continue to suffer,” Gomeroi woman Gwenda Stanley told a crowd during a Sydney Reconciliation protest in May this year.

In a glimmer of hope, the first annual report also shows three additional targets are on track to being reduced, including youth detention rates, healthy baby birth weights, and earlier school enrolments.