The ACT's Corrections Minister has flagged that an independent review into the over-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the territory's justice system could examine systemic racism.
It came after the government faced fierce criticism for not instigating a report into institutional and systemic racism at Canberra's jail.
Winnunga Nimmityjah Aboriginal Health Service chief executive Julie Tongs condemned Labor and the Greens for rejecting an inquiry, which the local Aboriginal community "whole-heartedly supported".
Last week, the Canberra Liberals put forward a motion that called for an independent investigation into the prevalence of racism at the Alexander Maconochie Centre.
The push for the inquiry came after an Aboriginal woman alleged she had been strip-searched by guards in full view of male detainees at the Canberra jail.
Ms Tongs penned a powerful opinion piece in The Canberra Times on Wednesday where she said the government had ignored the Aboriginal community.
"All Labor and Greens members of the Legislative Assembly have chosen, however, to ignore the concerns of the Aboriginal community about racism within ACT government services and instrumentalities," she wrote.
But the territory's Corrections Minister Mick Gentleman said in a statement that systemic racism could be examined in an already planned review.
"We know that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are overrepresented at every stage of the justice system, which ultimately culminates in a higher rate of imprisonment," he said.
"That's why the government committed to reviewing over-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the ACT justice system last year in response to correspondence from Ms Tongs.
"This independent review will be led by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who will be empowered to decide the issues it covers, which may include systemic racism."
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Attorney-General and former corrections minister Shane Rattenbury was also grilled about the opinion piece on Wednesday morning. He also rejected the claim that the government had ignored the issues.
He said there were two independent inquiries taking place - one by the Human Rights Commission and another by the Inspector of Correctional Services.
"I don't agree with the fact that we have ignored this issue, I think the government is very upfront about acknowledging that this is a problem in the ACT," Mr Rattenbury said.
"There is no dispute that we have a problem about racism, I think there are different views on how we should tackle it and we have formed a view that another inquiry was not the answer, we need to focus on addressing these issues."
The Liberals explicitly called for an inquiry that investigated institutional and systemic racism at the Alexander Maconochie Centre. As well, they called for the government to develop advice and recommendations to address and eliminate the racism.
Instead, Labor and the Greens voted to finish the review into over-representation of Indigenous Australians in the ACT jail "in a timely way". It will report to the assembly in September.
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