Goodwill toward reconciliation with Aborigines in Australia has dissipated over the past 12 years, general manager indigenous services and education for Anglicare in the ACT, southern and western NSW Karen Kime said in Canberra on Friday.
At a Reconciliation Week event arranged by Reconciliation Australia and Anglicare, she said since the Sydney Harbour Bridge walk 12 years ago, there had been few tangible gains for indigenous people. ''On some indicators we have gone backwards as a nation.''
Archdeacon Kime is a Birripa woman and the most senior indigenous woman in the Australian Anglican Church.
She said the work of national reconciliation still enjoyed much support, but there had been no progress for more than 10 years in addressing the over representation of indigenous Australians in prison.
''The incarceration of Aboriginal people has increased over the past 10 years, with young people 28 times more likely to be charged and imprisoned compared to other Australians - at a cost of $230,000 per year for each person.'' This was a national disgrace which needed immediate attention. The lack of appropriate police training was a major concern.
Aboriginal young people often made up 90 per cent of inmates at detention centres, but the training of police excluded the knowledge and skills to work effectively with them. ''In fact, there is no one subject across the three years of training at the NSW Police Academy that develops the cultural competency skills so desperately needed. While most others working in human service organisations must undertake training in this area, the lack of training of police contributes to this national crisis,'' Archdeacon Kime said.
The launch of the Justice Reinvestment campaign on May 2 in NSW had been an important step forward. It sought to encourage the redirection of funds from the juvenile justice system into prevention programs for Aboriginal young people.
Archdeacon Kime said Anglicare operated a long-term mentoring program for indigenous young people in the Riverina which was effective at preventing crime. ''Most Australians would be shocked and appalled at the lives these young people have led. Many have never eaten with their families, they have little clothing, and have rarely attended school. They have not before had positive role models to reveal a different way of life.'' Through such mentoring programs, young people had completely turned their lives around.
''Until the way we deal with Aboriginal young people is radically reviewed, these children will continue to graduate into adult prisons; a situation that is a grave injustice and an injustice to the Australian public who must pay dearly for such a system,'' she said.