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Type: Journal article
Title: Aboriginal women in the Australian prison system
Author: Grant, E.M.
Paddick, S.
Citation: Right Now: Human Rights in Australia, 2014; Sep
Publisher: Right Now
Issue Date: 2014
ISSN: 1834-4372
Statement of
Elizabeth Grant and Sarah Paddick
Abstract: Aboriginal women are the fastest growing sector of the prison population in Australia. Over the last 10 years, the female prison population has increased by 60 per cent (Australian Bureau of Statistics 2013). Aboriginal women are massively overrepresented in the prison population. While approximately two percent of the Australian female population identify as being of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander descent, Indigenous women make up one third of the female prison population. Offences committed by Aboriginal women are commonly those associated with extreme poverty, such as non-payment of fines, shop-lifting, driving and alcohol related offences and welfare fraud (Baldry 2013). Over the last 10 years there have been, however, significant increases in imprisonment for offences such as robbery, theft, assault and homicide. Almost all Aboriginal women in prison come from economically and disadvantaged backgrounds. The majority of women prisoners are themselves victims of crime, with many being the survivors of physical and sexual abuse. Most were in care as a child, with many having experienced childhood sexual assault and imprisonment. Most women were unemployed prior to incarceration with few having completed secondary education. Many Aboriginal women experience sexual abuse and racism at an early age, have repeated failures at school and come from families where excessive alcohol use, substance abuse, offending and violence are behavioural norms (Baldry et al. 2009). Larger numbers of Aboriginal women are coming into prison having experienced homelessness and having cognitive impairments (commonly from traumatic events such as vehicle accidents or domestic violence), sometimes from foetal alcohol spectrum disorder (Grant 2014).
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