19 February 2018

Why mental health needs a bigger focus in Australia’s prisons and detention centres

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Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are outrageously over represented in Australia’s justice system.

According to the Human Rights Watch Report 2018, Indigenous children and youth are 25 times more likely to end up in the juvenile justice system compared to non-Indigenous youth.

About one quarter of Australia’s prison population is made up of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. However, Indigenous people only make up three per cent of Australia’s total population.

The Human Rights Watch Report also reports that over half of Australia’s prison population has a disability, which often includes mental health issues.

However, as prisoners don’t have access to Medicare, it’s up the states’ health and justice budgets to accommodate for prisoners’ needs.

Leaders from across Australia will come together to speak at the upcoming National Indigenous Mental Health & Wellbeing Forum in Perth on the 21st-23rd February, to share their thoughts on the growing mental health crisis.

Some of the speakers include Ngaree Ah Kit, Assistant Minister for Suicide Prevention, Mental Health and Disabilities and Assistant Minster for Seniors and Youth in the NT, Josie Farrer, Member for Kimberley, Aunty Cheri Yavu-Kama-Harathunian from the Indigenous Wellness Centre, Gerry Georgatos, Suicide Prevention and Prison Reform Researcher and Mervyn Eades from Ngalla Maya.

They will, together with other presenters, share their stories, case studies and practical strategies on how to change the statistics and improve the mental wellbeing of Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population.

Speakers will also discuss the correlation between mental health issues and imprisonment, and discuss the importance of appropriate support within jails and detention centre as well as post-release.

It’s time to change the statistics, and that starts with everyone taking action.

Written by: Mimmie Wilhemson

Mimmie grew up in Sweden and first came to Australia as a backpacker after high school. After travelling around the country for two years she returned to Europe and pursued a Bachelor’s degree in Journalism in London. But the longing for Australia and the sun became too strong. After having worked for some time in the media industry, Mimmie decided to make a change and swap the news for conferences. She now gets to do what she loves the most, meeting new people and keep learning about cultures and issues while producing conferences on current topics.

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