Media Statement: Deaths in Custody

Reconciliation SA Media Statement

15th April 2021


Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples are advised that this statement discusses deaths in custody and may contain or mention of people who have passed.


On this 30th Anniversary of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody we acknowledge the suffering of First Nation peoples impacted by the injustice of being overly represented in detention, incarceration and subject to systemic racism.

The 339 recommendations from the Royal Commission provided a clear pathway to addressing deaths in custody and the disproportionate number of First Nation peoples entering and re-entering the criminal justice system.

In 2021, we are still witnessing the continued loss of life of First Nation peoples in custody (according to the Guardian, 474 since the Royal Commission). We still bear witness to First Nation people representing almost 30% of the Australian prison population, while only 3% of the Australian population.

We call on federal and state governments, with fair and just mindset, to appropriately resource and oversee effective implementation of all the Commission’s recommendations, noting that a significant number of recommendations have yet to be fully implemented.

Reconciliation SA is committed to upholding the Uluru Statement from the Heart, which highlights:

“Proportionally, we are the most incarcerated people on the planet. We are not an innately criminal people. Our children are alienated from their families at unprecedented rates. This cannot be because we have no love for them. And our youth languish in detention in obscene numbers. They should be our hope for the future.”

These words and sentiments are not lost on us, Australians have waited long enough for this unacceptable situation to be addressed. We call on our members, allies, friends and all South Australians to support change.


Call for Action

The current status quo is simple not acceptable, 5 deaths since March 2021 cannot go on unanswered, our community, our nation, our children deserve to grow and live in a society that values all citizens, including the First Peoples of this Nation.

We call for the age of criminal responsibility to be raised from 10 years of age to at least 14 and support the aims of the Raise the Age campaign. We implore the federal and state governments to take action and call for an end to the high rates of incarceration of First Nation people, so we support the aims of Change the Record campaign.

Reconciliation SA Co-Chairs the Justice Reinvestment Board of SA, we call on our government to increase its investment in such initiatives.

We call on South Australian parliament and the Aboriginal Lands Parliamentary Standing Committee to review South Australia’s implementation of the recommendations from the Royal Commission and create greater transparency and accountability on the status and progress of ALL of these recommendations.


What can you do?

  • Support the Raise the Age and Change the Record campaigns
  • Unlearn and Relearn by reading ALRMs Royal Commission recommendations here
  • Get online and attend a virtual event hosted by NATSILS here
  • Listen to First Nation leaders and their experiences, by joining a free webinar with Senator Pat Dodson here
  • Sign NATSILS petition calling on the Prime Minister to meet with families whose loved ones have died in custody here
  • Email your federal and state Members of Parliament asking for change and raising their awareness of campaigns, education opportunities and events.