The HRLC’s Indigenous Rights Unit was established in October 2012 to deepen the Centre’s work in partnership with Indigenous organisations to protect and promote the rights of Indigenous peoples. The Unit is both responsive and agenda-setting, receiving requests for assistance as well as working with Indigenous organisations to identify significant and systemic human rights issues.
The Indigenous Rights Unit focuses on the following priorities:
- reducing the over-representation of Indigenous peoples in all aspects of the criminal justice system including issues relating to imprisonment rates, police powers, conditions in detention and the nexus between the child protection system and over-representation;
- ensuring access to basic social and economic rights in remote Indigenous communities, including in particular the rights to education and housing; and
- promoting in particular, the rights of Indigenous women, children and young people in these focus areas.
As the Australian Government campaigns for a seat on the United Nations Human Rights Council, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families are being torn apart by punitive laws and a lack of investment in community-based prevention programs, the UN heard overnight.
The over-imprisonment of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women is a growing national crisis that is being overlooked by all levels of government in Australia, the Human Rights Law Centre and Change the Record said in a new report. HRLC's Adrianne Walters said, “The tragic and preventable death of Ms Dhu is a devastating example of what happens when the justice system fails Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women.
“All the data shows that these laws are being overwhelmingly used against Aboriginal people. Twenty-six years ago the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody made clear that locking someone up should only ever be a last resort and that police should be required to consider safer options,” said HRLC's Adrianne Walters.
The Human Rights Law Centre welcomes Commonwealth Attorney-General George Brandis' announcement today that Australia would ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture and other mistreatment (OPCAT) by the end of the year.
The Government’s decision to regazette Barwon adult jail as a youth justice facility is an act of utter bad faith, say human rights lawyers.
Only yesterday the Victorian Court of Appeal upheld the Supreme Court’s decision that the Victorian Government acted unlawfully in gazetting Barwon adult prison as a youth justice facility.
The Victorian Court of Appeal today unanimously confirmed that the Victorian Government acted unlawfully in transferring children to the Barwon adult jail. The Court was hearing an appeal against last week's Supreme Court ruling.
Hugh de Kretser, Executive Director at the Human Rights Law Centre, said, “Jailing children in the state’s most notorious adult prison was a terrible mistake. The government needs to house these children in a safe, lawful and appropriate facility.”
The Victorian Court of Appeal will tomorrow hear the appeal against last week’s Supreme Court ruling that the Victorian Government acted unlawfully in transferring children to the Barwon adult jail. The Court of Appeal is expected to make its decision on the appeal at the end of tomorrow’s hearing.
The tragic death of Ms Dhu could have been prevented, said the Western Australian State Coroner today. The Coroner found that many of the police officers entrusted with her care acted unprofessionally and treated Ms Dhu inhumanely.
Time: 8:45AM (AWST)
Date: Friday 16 December
Where: Steps of the Perth Central Law Courts, 501 Hay St, Perth WA 6000
The Western Australian State Coroner will hand down her findings in the inquest into Ms Dhu’s death in custody this Friday. She will also decide on whether to release harrowing footage showing Ms Dhu’s final hours.
The Supreme Court will today commence hearing the case against the Victorian Government to ensure no child is sent to Barwon maximum security adult jail. The Human Rights Law Centre and Fitzroy Legal Service are bringing the case after the government two weeks ago agreed not to transfer any Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander children to the prison.
The Northern Territory’s broad police protective custody powers will be scrutinized tomorrow in the High Court in a challenge brought by the North Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency (NAAJA) and the Human Rights Law Centre on behalf of Aboriginal man, Anthony Prior.
A new Supreme Court case has been launched against the Victorian Government to ensure no child is held in the Barwon maximum security adult prison.
The Andrews Government has today taken the extraordinary step and agreed not to transfer any Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander children to Barwon maximum security adult prison.
FURTHER DETAILS: As part of the last minute back down, the Victorian Government has committed not to transfer any Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander child to an adult jail. The only extremely limited possibility for transfers is in exceptional circumstances and, even then, only on the advice of the Aboriginal Children’s Commissioner that the transfer is in the best interests of that child.
Lawyers who visited children held at Barwon maximum security adult prison yesterday say that the conditions are cruel and intolerable.
The Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service (VALS) has filed a case in the Victorian Supreme Court challenging the lawfulness of the Government’s decision to send Aboriginal children as young as 16 years to Barwon maximum security adult prison.
Lawyers and advocates were today told that transfers of children from youth detention facilities to Victoria’s maximum-security adult prison are imminent.
Aboriginal and human rights organisations have said high rates of homelessness and overcrowding must be considered by the NT Royal Commission as key drivers of Aboriginal children entering the child protection and youth detention systems.
The Human Rights Law Centre has told the Northern Territory Royal Commission and the Queensland youth justice review that current youth justice laws breach children’s human rights and must be changed.
The Northern Territory’s harsh police protective custody powers will come under scrutiny after the High Court agreed to hear a legal challenge brought by the North Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency (NAAJA) on behalf of Mr Anthony Prior.
Today the Western Australian Coroner conducting the inquest into Ms Dhu’s death in custody reserved the decision to publicly release harrowing footage of Ms Dhu’s death. The Coroner will deliver the decision at a date in the future.
Today the Western Australian Coroner presiding over the inquest into Ms Dhu’s death in custody will consider whether to publicly release harrowing footage of Ms Dhu’s death.
Australia’s youth justice practices breach international human rights law, Amnesty International and the Human Rights Law Centre told the United Nations in a statement read before the Human Rights Council in Geneva.
As the Northern Territory’s Royal Commission holds its first public hearing, leading Indigenous and human rights organisations are calling on the Federal and Northern Territory Governments to immediately protect the human rights of young people currently in detention.
The Human Rights Law Centre welcomed the announcement by the Turnbull Government of a Royal Commission into youth detention in the Northern Territory. The HRLC had expressed extreme disappointment over the government’s lack of consultation with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations when initially announcing the inquiry.
The UN’s human rights chief, the High Commissioner for Human Rights, called on Australia to ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture.
The Human Rights Law Centre expresses extreme disappointment over the lack of consultation with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations.
On the eve of a case in the Northern Territory Supreme Court challenging the Alcohol Protection Order regime, Aboriginal organisations, doctors and lawyers have united in calling on the Northern Territory Government to rethink harmful alcohol laws that negatively impact Aboriginal people.
Western Australia’s Independent Inspector of Custodial Services released a damning report on Friday showing that Western Australia’s policy of locking people up for unpaid fines disproportionately impacts vulnerable Aboriginal women.
The Human Rights Law Centre’s Senior Lawyer, Ruth Barson, said that the Inspector’s report is another reminder that Western Australia’s policy of locking people up for unpaid fines is unfair and out of date.
Governments can no longer plead ignorance when it comes to the risks associated with locking up Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women. The tragic and preventable death of Ms Dhu, a 22-year-old Yamatji woman, while in WA police custody because of unpaid fines is a devastating example of how the justice system fails our women.
Mandatory sentences are not the right tool for reducing crime, writes our Executive Director, Hugh de Kretser, following the misguided policy announcement from Victoria's Opposition Leader.
To achieve the Close the Gap measures, the federal and territory governments need to engage in genuine dialogue with Aboriginal people. The chronic crisis of overcrowding can only be addressed through a collaborative approach, with a view to ultimately giving control back to Aboriginal communities.
Just a day after Victoria’s highest court confirmed the government acted unlawfully in detaining children at the Barwon adult prison, the Minister has tried yet again to keep them there. The government is spending extraordinary resources defending the indefensible – jailing children in the state’s most notorious adult prison.
Brutal images of Aboriginal women and children being mistreated in custody are a defining feature of 2016. From Dylan Voller and the young detainees of Don Dale to Ms Dhu, Australians have been forced to reckon with the cruel reality of Australia's over-imprisonment crisis.
I've just returned from Barwon maximum security adult prison. I found myself squatting on the floor to talk to one of our clients – a 16-year-old child – through the trapdoor to his cell. The tight steel opening so small I could only see his anxious eyes. He is being held in solitary confinement; pacing his cell, uncertain when he will be let out. He hasn't seen the sky since Thursday.
We need to get to the bottom of what went wrong with the riot at the Parkville Youth Justice Centre. We don’t need lazy, kneejerk populist responses, like transferring kids to adults jails, which are designed to sound tough on crime and which in fact will only make things worse.
Last year, Kumanjayi Langdon, a proud and respected 59-year-old Warlpiri man from a large family, died in police custody in Darwin.
His crime? Police suspected he was drinking in a local park. He wasn’t causing any disruption and was polite and cooperative at all times.
Dragged from her cell. Handcuffed and paralysed. Hauled, dying, into the back of a police truck. This week Australia may be confronted, yet again, with images and footage of the justice system failing Aboriginal people, with devastating results.
Prime Minister Malcom Turnbull's announcement of a royal commission into the abuse of children in Northern Territory jails gives an insight into his instincts on human rights.