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Crossbench unites for action on deaths in custody, child removals.

Crossbench MPs and Senators have united today to call for action on deaths in custody and the removal of First Nations children.

In an open letter addressed to the Prime Minister, Minister Linda Burney and Attorney General Mark Dreyfus, the crossbench has urged the government to progress the recommendations set out by the 1991 Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody and the 1997 Bringing Them Home Report.

The letter calls for new powers and funding for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island Human Rights Commissioner to oversee progress on the recommendations from the Royal Commission, the majority of which have not been implemented two decades after they were handed down.

It also calls for the new, recently announced National Commissioner for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children to oversee implementation of the Bringing them Home report recommendations.

Closing the Gap data published this month showed rates of Indigenous suicide, incarceration and children in out-of-home care getting worse, and no improvement in rates of imprisonment of First Nations children. Productivity Commission data this year also showed the overall rate of deaths in custody at its highest in more than a decade.

The letter, initiated by Senator Lidia Thorpe, has gained the support of Senators David Pocock, Jacquie Lambie, and Tammy Tyrrell, and MPs Andrew Wilkie, Kylea Tink, Zali Steggall, Monique Ryan, Kate Chaney, Zoe Daniel, Helen Haines, Sophie Scamps, and Allegra Spender. 


Quotes attributable to Senator Lidia Thorpe, Gunnai Gunditjmara and Djab Wurrung woman and Independent Victorian Senator

“Monitoring and oversight of progress on these critical reforms is a necessary step towards positive change for First Peoples on a larger scale. 

“This is a tangible and achievable step the government should take in this term. It is supported by the current Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commissioner and we hope the government will support such a basic measure without delay.

“In just the last few weeks we’ve seen horrific reports of children dying by suicide in prison, revalations of systemic racism in the police, and accounts of new babies being removed from their mothers moments after birth. 

“Decades after these important reports have been handed down, our people continue to die, and our children continue to be taken in record numbers. 

“We need justice, the Albanese government must show national leadership on these key reform areas now. We cannot let another government get away with no action.” 


Quotes attributable to Independent Federal Member for Indi Helen Haines MP:

“We know what needs to happen and we must get on with it. There have been many inquiries and reports provided to governments of the day, yet the recommendations are never implemented in full.

“The federal government must lead and act with urgency on deaths in custody, First Nations incarceration and child removal rates.”


Quotes attributable to Kate Chaney MP, Federal Member for Curtin:

"Too many recommendations from Royal Commissions and inquiries never get implemented. Too many First Nations Australians have died in custody and too many children have been removed from their families. 

To heal the deep wound in our past, we need to ensure we are accountable for the changes needed to stop this cycle."

Quotes attributable to Andrew Wilkie MP, Independent Member for Clark:

“It is simply unconscionable that 27 years on from the release of the Bringing Them Home Report, and 33 years on from the release of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody, the majority of recommendations have not been implemented.

“While we delay, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander kids continue to be disproportionately represented in out-of-home care and we regularly witness Indigenous people dying in custody. This is unacceptable.

“Yes, the Voice to Parliament failed. So it’s now time for the Government to move on and implement real, tangible and effective reforms to protect and promote the rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. We should start by fully implementing the recommendations of these reports.”


Quotes attributable to Senator Jacqui Lambie:

“It has been 33 years since the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody was tabled in Parliament. Hundreds of First Nations people have died in custody since the report was handed down, four of those deaths have occurred this year, and we are only in March.  

“Like many Reports and Royal Commissions, successive governments ignore the recommendations. This Government has said time and again they are committed to improving the lives of Aboriginal people, I don’t understand why they haven't done it already."


Quotes attributable to Zali Steggal, Independent Member for Warringah

“It is unacceptable that we continue to see Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People overrepresented in the rates of suicide, incarceration and children in out-of-home care. We must support urgent measures to ensure all recommendations from the 1997 Royal Commission and the Bringing them Home Report are enacted.”


Quotes attributable to Kylea Tink MP, Independent Member for North Sydney

“We have a major problem with human rights in this country and it is frequently marginalised groups hardest hit by the lack of a human rights framework “
“Indigenous peoples should not have to live with the consequences of Australia's failure to protect their basic human rights.”

“It is not acceptable that this parliament, this government, has the answers but isn’t acting. We as politicians should prioritise the reform required, and that starts with progressing the recommendations of the Royal Commission and the Bringing Them Home Report.”




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