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From a Loaf of Bread to a 'Packet of biscuits'

DEATHS IN CUSTODY WATCH COMMITTEE (WA) Inc. 119 MATHIESON RD ASCOT WA 6104

Tel: 61(0)8 9277-1533 Mobile: 041993-0375 Fax: 61(0)8 9478-4204

E-mail: dicwc@omen.net.au URL: http://www.omen.net.au/~dicwc

Patron: Elder Dr Jack Davis, AO, MBE

16th February 1999

From a Loaf of Bread to a 'Packet of biscuits'- Two Centuries of Progress?

"A decade ago, the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody (RCIADIC) recommended that throughout Australia, imprisonment should be a sanction of last resort."

Recommendation 92:

That governments which have not already done so should legislate to enforce the principle that imprisonment should be utilised only as a sanction of last resort.

"This was and is nothing new to a civilised society, it also reflects the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, and contemporary thinking by the Judiciary. The Watch Committee strongly supports Federal moves to review and hopefully remove the shameful process of mandatory sentencing from our society." Said Ms Kath Mallott, the Executive Officer of the Watch Committee.

"The reported rejoinder of Western Australia's State Premier, Richard Court, that 'Mr Williams, (the Federal Attorney General) should write to the people who are bashed...' clearly shows his level of Justice administration is based on revenge and his desire to appease some, justifiably, angry victims of crime, rather than tackle the more difficult option of addressing the causes of crime."

"The state-sanctioned death of any person is an horrific proposition, but for any State or Territory government to support laws which facilitate death is to be condemned in the strongest possible terms. I am therefore shocked at the lack of compassion displayed by some politicians and talk-back radio participants, who, following the very tragic death of the 15 year old boy in the Northern Territory made comments such as '...well If he hadn't broken the law, he wouldn't have been in jail...'. This, and other like comments, are a shameful attempt to justify a child's death at the cost of a packet of texta colours and it is indicative of a sickness within our society. Surely, it is obvious to our political leaders that any law, Mandatory Sentencing or otherwise, that facilitates the death of a juvenile is a bad law and must be repealed." Ms Mallott said.

"But, we must not just see this tragedy in the Northern Territory in isolation from its own reality - and that is the disgusting rate of over-incarceration of Indigenous Australians."

"In Western Australia we incarcerate Indigenous citizens at a rate that surely must approach that of South Africa at the height of Apartheid. A rate that saw South Africa ostracised from civilised society for years. There is clearly a double standard in the manner in which the broader International community has chosen to turn a blind eye to the shameful reality of what it means to be Aboriginal in Western Australia." Ms Mallott stated.

"One can only hope that a visit by the President of the United Nations to our country brings with it a human dimension, and a moral obligation to some of our politicians?"

"I am ashamed to call myself an Australian." She concluded.

Media Contact: Kath Mallott Executive Officer 08 9277-1533 041993-0375

Deaths In Custody Watch Committee (WA) Inc) 119 Mathieson Road, REDCLIFFE, Western Australia, 6104

"The beginning of the cause of deaths in custody does not occur within the confines of police and prison cells or in the minds of the victims. Initially it starts in the minds of those who allow it to happen." Elder Dr. Jack Davis (OA, MBE)

* dicwc@omen.net.au http://www.omen.net.au/~dicwc *

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