- The ALRC has launched an inquiry into the overrepresentation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the criminal justice system.
- His Honour Judge Matthew Myers AM has been appointed as the ALRC Commissioner to lead the inquiry, which is examining the laws, legal frameworks and institutions that may contribute to the disproportionate growth in incarceration rates.
- A discussion paper has been released (see: alrc.gov.au/publications) and the ALRC invites members of the legal profession to respond. Submissions close 4 September 2017.
The overrepresentation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the criminal justice system is acute. This is by no means a new phenomenon, and has been documented in many reports over the past few decades. However, it is also a problem that has been getting progressively worse.
When the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody report was released in 1991, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples constituted 14 per cent of the prison population. This rose to 23 per cent by 2006, and to 27 per cent in 2015. Furthermore, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women are the fastest growing cohort in the prison system, constituting only 2 per cent of the Australian adult female population, but 34 per cent of the adult female prison population.
In October 2016, Federal Attorney-General George Brandis QC announced his intention to ask the Australian Law Reform Commission (‘ALRC’) to consider what kind of law reforms could ameliorate this ‘national tragedy’ and break through these disturbing trends. He appointed His Honour Judge Matthew Myers AM as ALRC Commissioner to lead the Inquiry, and delivered final terms of reference to the ALRC in February 2017.