In 1987, Bob Hawke called for a Royal Commission to examine the social, cultural and specific circumstances of 99 Aboriginal deaths in custody between 1980 and 1989. 30 years later, the situation is worse.
In 1991, 339 recommendations were handed down by the commission, many of which were ignored.
Since the findings were released in 1991 (starting from 91-92 financial year and ending at last available official data in 2012-13) there have been 339 Indigenous deaths in prison and police custody:
- 204 in Prisons
- 135 in Police Custody and police related operations
The commission investigated 63 people who had died in police custody and 33 in prison, including three in juvenile detention; 88 males and 11 females; and an age range of 14 to 62 years.
The RCIADIC found that of the 99 deaths in custody:
- 30 were by hanging of which all were self inflicted
- 23 by external trauma of which 4 were self inflicted
- 4 were self-inflicted
- 5 were as a result of actions by custodians
- 2 were as a result of actions by fellow prisoners
- 1 was by accident (falling)
- 2 (head injuries) were as a result of actions by civilian persons outside of custody
- 5 (head injuries) were sustained outside custody but in what circumstances is unknown
- 2 (head injuries) were sustained in circumstances unknown, including whether they were sustained inside or outside of custody
- 1 (head injury) was as a result of a fight with police officers in a street outside a hotel
- 1 was as a result of a juvenile lighting fire
- 9 were immediately associated with substance misuse
- 37 were by natural causes
The key finding was that so many Aboriginal people were dying in custody because so many Aboriginal people were being thrown in police lock ups and prisons. We should be reducing imprisonment rates through changes to policing, laws and policies.