A new report finds Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander (ATSI) women are being imprisoned at more than triple the rate they were 15 years ago. 

New research released by the Queensland Sentencing Advisory Council has shown while there are fewer Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people committing offences overall, those who do are more likely to be imprisoned than they were in 2005. 

The council’s report focused on the sentencing of Indigenous people in QLD between 2005 and 2019, altogether taking in 321,669 cases.

Retired judge and council chair John Robertson said the data shows there has been an upward trend of courts using imprisonment for Indigenous offenders.

“That may be in response to policy changes in the law. It may be in response to us becoming a more punitive community. But of course it leaves us in the situation that we were in 30 years ago,” he said. 

The report shows the rate of unique offenders decreased for First Nations peoples from 88.7 offenders per 1,000 in 2005–06 down to 78.2 offenders per 1,000 in 2018–19.

“However, the data shows the rate of imprisonment for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander offenders increased from 11.4 offenders per 1,000 population in 2005–06 up to 17.0 offenders per 1,000 in 2018–19,” Mr Robertson said.

“People who identify as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander represent 3.8 per cent of the Queensland population aged 10 years and over and disproportionately this group accounts for 14.5 per cent of cases sentenced.”

The Connecting the Dots report also features insight and reflection from members of the Council’s Aboriginal and  Torres Strait Islander Advisory Panel, lending a personal context to the statistics.

Waka Waka man, council member and panel chair Bevan Costello says the report “tells it as it is.”

“It lays out the statistics and includes stories that talk about the chronic disadvantage experienced by First Nations peoples,” he said.

“The data tells us we are 4 per cent of the population and our mob count for 14 per cent of cases sentenced.

[The report] gives an understanding of the realities of our mob in the criminal justice system.”