Thirty years ago the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in custody delivered its 339 recommendations, and three decades later the system they call justice is still killing Aboriginal people.

The National Network of incarcerated and formerly incarcerated women and girls calls for the complete abolition of the carceral system because we know that the only way to stop Blak deaths in custody is to cease criminalising and incarcerating people.

“Right now, there are thousands of our mob sitting in cells on our own country, and this is not ok,” said Tabitha Lean, a formerly incarcerated, Gunditjmara woman. “While the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in custody was a watershed document, we know that it built on more than two centuries of Blak resistance in this country. Our people have been fighting the enslaving and incarcerating of our people for 233 years,” she said. “We must start the decarceration process, commit to building no new prisons, and start the process of abolishing the prison system; and instead, invest in our communities, enabling us to focus on abundance and healing, not scarcity and harm.”

The National Network stands with families on the frontlines fighting for justice for their loved ones and the ongoing labour they do to ensure that no other family should suffer in the same way as theirs. “As formerly incarcerated women and girls we know the system is brutal and too often deadly. We know the violence and cruelty inflicted on people caught in the system and we renew our calls to end state sanctioned violence and the killing of our people behind bars, in the backs of correctional service vans, in police cells and in our communities, by abolishing prisons,” said Vickie Roach.

Off the back of five more Aboriginal people being killed in prisons across this country since March this year, the government of Victoria is proposing to build a new facility to cage more women in that state. The National Network condemn this decision, “Aboriginal deaths in custody are a national crisis, the community is in mourning, and the state of Victoria see fit to widen the carceral net and expand their bed numbers! We find this grossly outrageous and as a Network we call for a country wide moratorium on the building of any new prisons, or expansion of bed numbers,” Debbie Kilroy said.

The National Network believe that a moratorium is the most important first step in decarcerating and abolishing prisons. “Prisons are being packaged as economic development opportunities for communities, but that is simply not the case. Prisons devour my community,” said Tabitha. “We know that some people will argue that refurbishing prisons reduces the suffering of those who are caged, but there are no comfortable cages, because imprisonment and exile is inhumane,” she said.

The National Network condemns the Australian and state and territory governments for their inaction in implementing the recommendations of the Royal Commission, and calls on those governments to implement an immediate nation wide moratorium on penal expansion, and commit to commencing the decarceration process, getting Aboriginal people out of cells and back home in their communities. “It would seem that the only people to benefit from Royal Commissions are the people conducting those commissions, and this must end,” said Debbie Kilroy.

For comment please contact:
Debbie Kilroy 0419762474;
Tabitha Lean 0499780226; or
Vicki Roach 0481303872