ACT Council of Social Service Inc.

Justice | Equity | Social Inclusion | Reconciliation

Media release: Aboriginal leadership key to responding to Moss Review into Death in Custody

17 February 2017

The ACT Council of Social Service today welcomed the ACT Government’s recognition that it needs to do more to improve the safety and wellbeing of people in custody at the Alexander Maconochie Centre (AMC), especially Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. This was outlined in the government’s response to the Independent Inquiry into the Treatment in Custody of Steven Freeman, presented to the Legislative Assembly by Minister for Corrections, Shane Rattenbury on Thursday.

Susan Helyar, Director of the ACT Council of Social Service, said today, “ACTCOSS welcomes the government’s decision to implement additional measures to improve the safety and care of detainees at the AMC. The effectiveness of these measures will be demonstrated by the ceasing of harmful, neglectful and secretive practices such as those observed around the tragic death of Mr Freeman.

“ACTCOSS welcomes the government’s commitment to work collaboratively with Aboriginal community-controlled organisations to better ensure the security, care and wellbeing of detainees. This includes the government’s commitment to work with Winnunga Nimmityjah Aboriginal Health Service to co-design best practice models of holistic care across the justice and health systems.

“The government’s recognition that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people must be central to supporting people in the justice and health systems is encouraging. More must still be done to establish Aboriginal leadership of responses.

“As well as integrating Aboriginal community-led organisations into the provision of health care at the AMC, these organisations must have leadership in broader service provision, facilitated by adequate funding. They also require the authority to hold mainstream services and decision makers to account, and advocate for policies and services that meet community needs.”

These sentiments were reinforced at a community forum in commemoration of the 25th Anniversary of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody held by the ACT Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Elected Body on Thursday, in partnership with ACTCOSS.

Ms Helyar noted, “As the government’s response to the Moss Review was being presented in the Legislative Assembly, members of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community at the forum were clearly articulating that they themselves must have leadership in addressing the grossly disproportionate number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in our justice system and the neglect of their rights and needs.

“The role now for mainstream organisations is to respect that Aboriginal community-controlled organisations should access the resources to lead this vital work and determine whether and how they partner with others.”

ACTCOSS acknowledges the profound loss and grief experienced by Steven Freeman’s family and friends, the enormous support that has been provided by Winnunga Nimmityjah Aboriginal Health Service, and the impact on the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community.     

For more information or comment please contact
Susan Helyar, Director, on 0448 791 987 or 02 6202 7200.