Australians for Disability Justice (formerly the Aboriginal Disability Justice Campaign) Release of the Senate Standing Committee Report into the Indefinite Detention of People with Cognitive and Psychiatric Impairments

Contact: Patrick McGee 0448 610 105 / aboriginaldisabilityjusticecampaign.org

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Australians for Disability Justice welcomes the release of the report and endorses the 32 recommendations from the Senate Standing Committee on Community Affairs into the Indefinite Detention of People with Cognitive and Psychiatric Impairments in Australia.

The ADJ urges the Federal Government to move quickly to implement the recommendations

Australians for Disability Justice is a national advocacy campaign that seeks to change legislation policy and practice that leads to the recurrent and indefinite detention of people with cognitive and psychiatric impairments, particularly Indigenous Australians.

This landmark report draws a line in the sand: between the overrepresentation of people with cognitive and psychiatric impairments in the criminal justice system, many of whom suffer from recurrent and indefinite detention and the possibility of a different future where the experience of the justice system by people with disabilities is fair and just.

This report helps all of us to understand how we can do better for people with disabilities.

To do better for people like Roseanne Fulton, an Indigenous woman with foetal alcohol syndrome who since returning to Alice Springs from indefinite detention in Western Australia for traffic offences has spent 70% of her time under conviction a large amount of that time detained in a maximum security prison.

To do better for Malcolm Moreton a young Indigenous man with an intellectual disability, who – whilst detained in maximum security prison – was belted into a restraint chair and injected with tranquilisers seventeen times for banging his head repeatedly against the cell bars.

To do better for Marlon Noble an Indigenous man with an Acquired Brain Injury who was detained for ten years in a prison for offences that he didn’t commit for which the United Nations has now condemned Australia. Marlon continues to live his life under a highly restrictive supervision order despite the recommendations from the United Nations for that order to be immediately lifted

This Inquiry and Report follows on from calls from the Australian Human Rights Commission and the United Nations Committee for the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities for Australia to do better for people with disabilities in the criminal justice system.

Australians for Disability Justice believes that there are approximately 150 people with cognitive impairments around the country who are detained indefinitely but remain unconvicted in prisons and forensic facilities nationally. At least 50 of those people are Indigenous. However as a nation we don’t really know because the states and territories does not count how many people with disabilities are detained. The ADJ urge the Federal Government to implement those recommendations associated with quantifying the numbers of people detained, particularly how many Indigenous Australians are detained.

This report helps to shine a light on the practice where people who have a cognitive impairment or a mental health disorder and are found unfit to plead by the court – thus remaining unconvicted – are detained in prisons and forensic facilities indefinitely around the country[SI1] . In the Northern Territory those prisons are maximum security prisons

In the Northern Territory 80% of the people detained indefinitely are Indigenous Australians with cognitive and psychiatric impairment. The First Peoples Disability Network states that if just one in five Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians with disability were diverted from detention then the prison population would decline by 10%.

Australians for Disability Justice welcomes the focus of this Inquiry and Report on placing front and centre the fact that Indigenous Australians are being detained in record numbers. This includes Indigenous Australians with Cognitive and Psychiatric Disorders.

We can do better…..

Patrick McGee: Australians for Disability Justice / Deb Kilroy: Sisters Inside / Taryn Harvey: Western Australian Developmental Disability Council / Michelle O’Flynn: Queensland Advocacy Inc

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