January 2011

The Australian Institute for Health and Welfare (AIHW) last week released a report on Child Protection 2009 – 2010. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children remain over represented in all areas of the child protection system. The rate of substantiated notifications for child abuse or neglect is higher for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children (in 2009-2010).

  • Indigenous children were 7.7 times more likely than non-Indigenous children to be the subject of substantiation.
  • Across Australia the rate of Indigenous children on orders was nine times higher than that of non-Indigenous children.

AIHW report that the most common type of abuse was neglect. In Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania, the most common type of abuse for Indigenous children was emotional abuse. Sexual abuse is the least common type of abuse for Indigenous children across all jurisdictions. 


 By David Weber


Family members of an Aboriginal elder who died in custody say they are happy charges have been laid against the Western Australian Government and the private contractor involved.

Mr Ward died of severe heatstroke in January 2008 after being driven across the desert in a prisoner transport van.

It was later discovered the air conditioning in the rear of the vehicle had broken down.

WorkSafe WA has charged the state’s Department of Corrective Services, contractor G4S and the two drivers.

They are the first charges to be laid over the incident after the Department of Public Prosecutions decided last year not to pursue a criminal case.

The chairwoman of the Deaths in Custody Watch Committee, Marianne Mackay, says WorkSafe has made the only possible decision given the circumstances.

“We’ve been fighting for Mr Ward for a couple of years now, and the timeframe just shows how disgusting and how ignorant the Government are when it comes to Aboriginal people,” she said.

“This is more common than you realise and the way that Mr Ward died was just too horrible for them to sweep it under the carpet like they have with the rest of our people.”

WorkSafe alleges Corrective Services did not adequately maintain the van.

G4S has been charged with failing to ensure Mr Ward was not adversely affected by the conditions.

And the two drivers have been charged with failing to take reasonable care to avoid having an impact on Mr Ward’s health.

Ms Mackay says the Government should end privatisation of prisoner services.

“I want to congratulate the WorkSafe mob on their investigation,” she said.

“I think that the Government need to stand up and take back that accountability and start working to improve the lives of our people, rather than allowing private companies to just do what they did to Mr Ward and get away with it.

“It is wrong. Now if this was a non-Aboriginal person it wouldn’t have happened and that’s a fact.”

Last year the State Government paid $3.2 million in compensation to Mr Ward’s family.

‘Money is nothing’

But Mr Ward’s cousin, Daisy Ward, has always called for someone to be held accountable for his death, and she was outraged when the DPP decided not to bring charges.

She said the Warburton elder’s life could not be valued in dollars.

“Money isn’t important to me. Money is nothing,” she said.

“The human life that is taken from us was important. He was an elder and he did everything for us, and he still remains in us.

“Money is just a piece of paper.”

The maximum penalty for the department and the company is $400,000 each. The maximum penalty for the drivers is $20,000.

Corrective Services Commissioner Ian Johnson says the process is fair and appropriate.

“The family has obviously gone through a terrible ordeal, as has the community,” he said.

“I can’t tell you how much we regret what’s happened back in 2008. And we’ve always been open right along to say if there are things we can do differently, even now after all the things we’ve done, then we’re wide open to seeing those things and doing those things.

“We want to absolutely make sure this never happens again.”

It is understood family members are still considering whether to bring civil action.

The Northern Territory Intervention and the Racial Discrimination Act

December 2010

 The Board of Management of Social Policy Connections endorsed the following statement on the 4th December concerning the Racial Discrimination Act on behalf of its members, following an address by the Hon. Alastair Nicholson.


“The Racial Discrimination Act (RDA), as it was amended in the Social Security and Other Legislation Amendment (Welfare Reform and Reinstatement of the Racial Discrimination) Act 2010, will come into effect on 31st December 2010. However, Social Policy Connections (SPC) considers this legislation to be incomplete and that such vital aspects of the Northern Territory Emergency Response (NTER) cannot be relegated to “special measures”. The Act, as it stands, will not provide protection against racial discrimination. Amendments to this legislation “reinstating” the RDA in its original determination are urgently needed.

 Social Policy Connections calls upon the Federal government to withdraw the present discriminatory legislation and unconditionally to “reinstate” the RDA. We also call on the government to ensure that any future welfare reform is non-discriminatory and does not impinge on the rights of any recipient. Further, we ask that the NTER measures be reviewed to ensure that they fully comply with the RDA, together with our obligations under human rights standards, such as the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.”

 We note that SPC is one of many organisations to take this stand, including: the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, the National Council of Churches in Australia, the Uniting Church of Australia, Franciscans International (General Consultative Status with UN ECOSOC), Edmund Rice International, Foundation for Marist Solidarity International, and the Good Shepherd Mission & Justice Unit.

We stand in solidarity with the Indigenous Peoples of Australia, and commit ourselves to take action to support their human rights and their rights as Australian citizens.

 Peter Whiting

SPC President, on behalf of SPC members and Board of Management

 Social Policy Connections is an independent, ecumenical, social justice advocacy group. It is a non-profit organisation, motivated and informed by Christian social teaching. SPC aims to expand awareness of social justice issues in Australia, and to influence public policy for the benefit of all people, especially the most disadvantaged.