ANU forum to tackle crisis in Indigenous incarceration

Friday, September 1, 2017 — The Australian National University (ANU) will hold a major workshop to address soaring rates of Indigenous incarceration from Monday, bringing together public servants, policy and community organisations.

Media are invited to attend the Broken Justice workshop from Monday 4 to Tuesday 5 September.

The workshop will bring together leading experts on Indigenous justice from around Australia to find ways to reduce the number of Indigenous Australians who are jailed, often for minor offences.

Workshop chair Dr Deirdre Howard-Wagner said experts will examine the impacts of state interventions on Indigenous people in areas like child protection, family violence and the practice of offering prison sentences as an alternative to paying fines.

It will also look at justice reinvestment programs and issues around gambling, as well issues for Native Americans and Indigenous people in New Zealand.

Defaulting on fines accounts for one-third of the prison population in Western Australia and is a key contributor of increasing rates of Indigenous women in prison, now at 33 per cent of the national prison population.

As well as increasing the likelihood of secondary offending in the criminal justice system, the practice punishes the poor and puts more Indigenous people behind bars, leaving them vulnerable and contributing to deaths in custody.

“Using incarceration to pay off a fine doesn’t make economic sense,” said Dr Howard-Wagner.

“It costs $300 a day to house a prisoner. That money would be better spent providing more community programs which are enjoying success and which can cost about $30 a day.”

Practising ACT barrister, solicitor and ANU Law School Faculty Member, Associate Professor Wood, will discuss how incarceration rates in Australia have increased since the Royal Commission into Deaths in Custody, and how the health and social indicators between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people widen.

The event is being organised by the ANU Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research (CAEPR).

More information and a full program can be found here:

WHO: Associate Professor Asmi Wood, ANU College of Law, Dr Marisa Fogarty, CAEPR and Director of Gambling Centre at ANU, Dr Jill Guthrie ANU Research School of Population Health.

Keynote speakers:                                                                                                 Professor Bruce Duthu, Professor of Native American Studies, Dartmouth College.         Prof Tracey McIntosh, Professor of Indigenous Studies and Co-Chair of Māori and Pacific Studies Wānanga o Waipapa at the University of Auckland,

WHAT: Broken Justice: Indigenous Justice Workshop.

WHERE: Australian Centre on China in the World, Building 188, Fellows Lane, The Australian National University.

WHEN:  Monday 4 September and Tuesday 5 September 2017 from 8.30am to 5pm.

For media assistance, contact the ANU media hotline on 6125 7979 or email