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Incarceration ‘impacts on Indigenous communities’

By Katie Weiss

Researcher Hannah Payer Researcher Hannah Payer

Researchers have indicated that up to 14 per cent of male residents are likely to be missing from remote Indigenous communities in the Northern Territory at any time due to incarceration.

Northern Institute researchers at Charles Darwin University highlighted the impacts that communities faced when large proportions of males aged 20 to 39 years old were absent from their communities due to imprisonment.

Research Associate Hannah Payer said the high number of young men missing from communities due to incarceration could affect population growth and bring about severe dysfunction.

“It is important to highlight the magnitude of the impact that high Indigenous incarceration rates in the NT have on communities,” Ms Payer said.

“Our research indicates that there is likely no community that would be unaffected by the increasing incarceration rates for Indigenous Territorians.”

The research also suggested that up to two per cent of women aged 20 to 39 years old were missing from individual communities at any time.

Ms Payer said this loss of young men and women could contribute to fewer births in communities that might otherwise occur.

“An absence of young people at ages where they usually become parents affects the demographic futures of communities,” she said.

Ms Payer said children of imprisoned parents could be left without role models or providers, and that high incarceration rates affected communities economically due to a loss of work-ready males.

The latest Australian Bureau of Statistics data showed the NT had the highest Indigenous incarceration rates in Australia. According to the data, there were 15.4 Indigenous prisoners to every non-Indigenous prisoner in the NT in 2014, compared with the national ratio of 12.9.

To view the report by Ms Payer and researchers Dr Andrew Taylor and Tony Barnes, entitled “Who’s missing? Social and Demographic Impacts from the Incarceration of Indigenous People in the Northern Territory”, visit W: cdu.edu.au/sites/default/files/research-brief-2015-05.pdf