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Indigenous Leaders Call For Change, Demanding Governments To Make It A “Top Priority”

"Now is the time to stop the rot of First Nations people dying in custody"

Over the weekend, thousands took to the streets of major Australian cities – from Sydney to Perth – to call an end to the systematic racism and police brutality endured by our First Nations population. Almost three decades after the Royal Commission, there have been over 430 Aboriginal deaths in custody – but change is on the horizon. 

For years, Indigenous leaders, officials and families have rallied for change. Now, a new national plan is expected to be unveiled – with a set of proposed Indigenous justice targets, making it the first time in history. 

According to the ABCa group of Indigenous leaders and officials from around the country negotiated the final details of the new plan. The publication adds the new targets are being set up under the revised national Closing the Gap agreement, a framework established by the Rudd Government in 2008 to improve Indigenous health, education and employment.

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Indigenous Australians Minister Ken Wyatt told Parliament on Wednesday that he was working with state ministers. “We will continue to work with the jurisdictions because there is a broad agreement to both targets,” he said. The new targets are expected to be announced next month after Mr Wyatt holds further meetings.

“Let me assure you that there are two targets and we will be focusing on them,” he told the parliament. “The discussions around those targets have been the focus of the work of the peak organisations, state and territory jurisdictions and my agency.”

Wyatt also said the government recognised that incarceration had contributed to unemployment and other socioeconomic issues confronting First Nations people. “We will certainly be working very strongly to ensure that those targets are met within the context of what we have agreed to. How we do it once it’s in place is certainly a requirement for states and territories to stump up and deliver on,” he said.

Labor senator Pat Dodson also addressed Parliament yesterday, “I asked you sincerely to make this a priority, a top priority – for too long, nice words, good intentions, but the lack of action and commitment has not seen a reduction to the incarcerations or the deaths in custody.”

“Now is the time to stop the rot of First Nations people dying in custody and being imprisoned.”

The protests have been making changes for Australia’s political climate already. Wyatt said on June 9 he hopes to introduce a public consultation to establish a First Nations voice to parliament before the year’s end.

“We’re confident that the Australian people will be able to have their say on an Indigenous voice this year,” Wyatt told the Sydney Morning Herald“We’re progressing work and every Australian who wants to have a say will be able to have a say. We know that policy works best when Indigenous Australians are at the centre of decision making.”

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