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The Law Society of NSW has joined other legal organisations in urging the government to address the “unacceptably” high rates of Indigenous incarceration, noting that “pain, grief and suffering” endures from the decades-old Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody.

On the 30th anniversary of the Royal Commission, the Aboriginal Legal Service (ALS) noted many of the landmark recommendations from that inquiry have been “gathering dust” since 1991.

A NSW Parliamentary Committee reviewing the high level of Indigenous incarceration and Aboriginal deaths in custody released its report last month. Its first recommendation was for the government to fully implement the Royal Commission recommendations. 

Among the other 39 recommendations of the committee are calls to raise the minimum age of criminal responsibility to at least 14 years old, greater funding for justice reinvestment, reform the Bail Act 2013, and expansion of the Drug Court to new locations in regional NSW. 

Karly Warner, CEO of the ALS, said in response to the report’s release: “Honouring children’s right to grow up in schools, homes and playgrounds rather than prisons is a step that’s long overdue. We also welcome amendments aimed at seeing fewer Aboriginal people languishing in cells without having been sentenced of a crime.

“We call on the NSW Government to urgently act on these recommendations and not wait six months to respond, as indicated by the report.”

Law Society President Juliana Warner said in a statement: “The time has come for a concerted and coordinated whole of government response to make substantive, structural changes to address these long-standing issues.”

“In 1991, the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody made 339 recommendations – 30 years later the rate of Indigenous incarceration remains unacceptably high and tragically more than 450 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People have died in custody.

“We support calls for all of the recommendations… to be fully implemented.”