Pat Dodson calls for Peter Dutton to convene police ministers meeting on deaths in custody

Labor senator Pat Dodson at Parliament House in Canberra.

Labor senator Pat Dodson at Parliament House in Canberra. Photo: AAP

A former royal commissioner is calling on Peter Dutton to convene a meeting of state and territory police ministers to act immediately to prevent Indigenous deaths in custody, after three people died in jail in the past fortnight.

Labor senator Pat Dodson worked on the landmark Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody three decades ago.

While the exact figure on how many deaths in custody there have been since then is unknown, it is believed to be in the hundreds.

“There’s no leadership coming from the federal government,” Senator Dodson said.

“People just end up being police fodder on the streets without any real relief being brought to bear upon the situation.”

Mr Dodson has called for Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton to convene an urgent meeting of state and territory police ministers.

Three Indigenous people have died in custody in the past fortnight – two in Sydney and one in Melbourne.

The deaths in Sydney were revealed by the NSW Corrective Services Commissioner during budget estimates the following week.

Senator Dodson wants Home Affairs Minister Mr Dutton, whose portfolio has oversight of the Australian Federal Police, to bring together state and territory stakeholders to deal with the issue.

“Immediately each state and territory, their police officers, police ministers, head of their police departments, attorneys-general of those jurisdictions, along with Aboriginal legal services … should meet and focus on why people are dying, what can be done to address it,” Senator Dodson said.

“It makes me so cranky, but so sad that fundamental things just aren’t being addressed.”

The ABC has contacted Mr Dutton for comment.

Indigenous Australians make up 30 per cent of prison population

Next month will mark 30 years since the royal commission’s final report and the 339 recommendations it made to address the issue.

It found Aboriginal people did not die at greater rates than non-Aboriginal people while in custody.

But it did find the number of deaths was due to the fact Indigenous people were grossly over-represented in custody.

Australia had its own George Floyd moment

The problem of over-representation has not changed since then.

According to the latest figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people account for just under 30 per cent of the prison population, despite only making up about 3 per cent of the population.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Minister for Indigenous Australians Ken Wyatt have also been contacted for comment.


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