Time to act on Aboriginal deaths

A survey in the Australian Indigenous Law Review finds most governments have failed calls for mandatory responses to coronial recommendations. The journal is published by UNSW's Indigenous Law Centre.

Nearly 20 years after the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths stirred the national conscience, Indigenous Australians continue to die needlessly due to government inaction, a survey of responses to coronial recommendations has found.

The Royal Commission's 1991 Final Report called for mandatory responses by governments to recommendations made by coroners in inquests, yet almost two decades later only a handful of Australian jurisdictions have answered the call.

The survey - contained in a Special Edition of Australian Indigenous Law Review - shows that many governments have failed to receive, consider or respond to the potentially life-saving recommendations coroners make.

The Special Edition was launched this week by the Federal Minister for Home Affairs, Bob Debus, at the Faculty of Law.

The AILR is a publication of UNSW's Indigenous Law Centre.

Also on hand were representatives from the Aboriginal Legal Service, Dean of the Faculty of Law David Dixon and Hal Wootten, founding law dean and one of the original five commissioners from the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths.

"If coronial recommendations are sufficiently important to make, they are sufficiently important to respond to and legislative reporting requirements should, therefore, apply to all coronial recommendations," write the survey authors, Professor Ray Watterson of La Trobe University, and Penny Brown and John McKenzie of the Aboriginal Legal Service (NSW/ACT).

"Introduction of a uniform and universal reporting scheme, evolving from the recommendations of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths, would mean that lessons hard-learned from Aboriginal adversity had finally come to benefit the whole Australian community. Many lives could be saved."

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Media Contact: Steve Offner | 9385 8107 | 0424 580 208 | s.offner@unsw.edu.au