AFLS Media Statement 16.09.21 – Sly Grogging
Aboriginal Family Legal Services WA (ALFS), a key legal assistance provider in East and West Kimberley regions, has expressed serious concern over the announcement by the State Government today that it will introduce new regulations to combat the practice of ‘sly grogging’ this week.
AFLS CEO Corina Martin said that while it was positive to see the Government thinking about how to limit liquor supply in the Kimberley, where consumption is often a driver of family and domestic violence, the approach taken by the Government was not transparent and was discriminatory towards Aboriginal people in the region.
“Under these new regulations, WA Police will have the discretion to seize and dispose of illegal alcohol on the spot, with the purpose of stamping out sly grogging in regional and remote communities. The historical relationship between Aboriginal people and the police, which is characterised by mistrust and prejudice, does not tend towards a fair assessment of vehicles which will be stopped under these new regulations. In fact, the exemptions to these carriage limits which apply to tourists, pastoralists, station owners and operators of remote work sites, only reinforces the racist intent of this legislation.”
Ms. Martin said that contemporary police responses to family violence, which continue to be affected by an overarching history of poor police responses, including the historical role of police in child removals and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander deaths in custody, set the tone for the application of the new regulations and police decision making about the purpose of the use of liquor.
“Today, poor police responses and practices contribute to stereotyping and often result in the misidentification of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women as offenders, rather than victims of crime. I am concerned that the new section of the Liquor Control Act will disproportionately affect Aboriginal people in the same way. Minister Whitby says it is up to police to use their good, common sense in making determinations as to whether a vehicle is carrying alcohol for the purposes of sly grogging, or if they’re going out on a camping or fishing trip. That common sense has only contributed to the disempowerment of and discrimination against Aboriginal people in the past.”
Ms. Martin expressed further concern over the lack of consultation on the legislative changes and said that the consultation which did occur was inadequate, given that it was with the main cause of the problem, the liquor industry. Failures to consult adequately and appropriately with the affected community would only have negative implications.
“There are real, critical problems in the Kimberley that require a joint response from community, service providers, and Government together. This top-down approach being enforced by the Government through the WA Police is discriminatory and will fail to improve the social and health outcomes of the community, when it is being thrown upon them,” Ms. Martin said.
Media Contact – Laney Gould, 9355 1502
MEDIA RELEASE (30.06.21): Alarming report on use of force against Aboriginal people in prisons across Western Australia
A key stakeholder in the Pilbara, West Kimberley and Goldfields regions has expressed concerns about findings in the Office of the Inspector of Custodial Services’ report on the use of force against prisoners in Western Australia.
The Inspection Report, which was recently handed down in Parliament, revealed that force is used more often on Aboriginal prisoners, with the overrepresentation of prisoners in use of force incidents “apparent at almost every prison in Western Australia”.
Aboriginal Family Legal Services WA, a specialist Family Violence organisation which provides legal assistance, preventative education and social supports for Aboriginal victims of family and domestic violence throughout remote and regional Western Australia, said that the findings of the report were problematic.
Particularly concerning was the finding that although Aboriginal people made up on average only 39% of the prison population in Western Australia, they were involved in more than half of all reported use of force incidences (55%).
AFLS CEO Corina Martin said that the overrepresentation of Aboriginal people in use of force incidents was likely partly a result of undiagnosed cognitive impairments, misinterpreted as contempt of prison officers and misbehavior. “These are some of the state’s most vulnerable people, who have experienced a lifetime and trauma, likely have undiagnosed FASD, and who have been drawn into criminal activity due to circumstances outside of their control”.
And, while there was an overall drop in the use of force against female prisoners, Aboriginal women remained overrepresented in use of force incidents in prisons across Western Australia. Since 2016, Aboriginal women have made up between 45 and 47 per cent of the female prisoner population, yet they have been involved in “upwards of 65 per cent of recorded use of force incidents involving women”. For AFLS, the finding that, just like the trend for Aboriginal prisoners generally, there was “no explanation” for the overrepresentation of Aboriginal women in use of force incidences, is troubling.
Ms. Martin also queried the unclear policy and reporting practices which failed to ensure use of force was controlled effectively. “The report tells us that 80% of all incidents in WA prisons involved physical force between 2016 and 2020, yet only 20 times were prisoners recorded as having physical force used on them in the same period? The inherent failures in the reporting system are leaving our prisoners, who are real people, more vulnerable to excess use of force and reduced chances of positive rehabilitation into the community”.
Ms. Martin urged the WA Government to review its practices in the use of force and ensure that Aboriginal prisoners do not continue to be overrepresented in use of force incidents in WA prisons.
Media Contact – Laney Gould 9355 1502