Indigenous Women and Criminal Justice

Oxford University Press
Publication Type:
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Relations, 2019, pp. 132 - 152
Issue Date:
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There are a number of reasons for a separate consideration of Indigenous women. Women in general have been neglected as group in the criminal justice system, and this is even more pronounced with Indigenous women. For example, Marchetti (2007, 2008) has drawn attention to the limitations of the RCADIC in its considerations and recommendations relating to Indigenous women. Shortly after the release of the report it was noted that the specific experiences of Indigenous women who died in custody had been ignored – nearly all the women died while detained by police for minor offences (Kerley and Cunneen 1995). Indigenous women face particular problems in their contact with the criminal justice system. On the one hand there are high levels of criminal victimisation (particularly for domestic assault), yet there are also significant limitations with the extent to which the law provides protection. For example, for some women the use of counterviolence may be their only self-defence (see the Kina case study below), or their earlier and/or ongoing exposure to violence and abuse may lead to, for example, drug and alcohol problems, and subsequent later offending (Cunneen and Kerley 1995; Stubbs and Tolmie 2008; Bartels 2012a; VEOHRC 2013). Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women are over-represented as offenders within the criminal justice system and particularly within prison. In fact, Indigenous women are the fastest growing group in prison, ‘growing at a rate which significantly exceeds the growth rate of other groups, including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander male offenders’ (ALRC 2017: 162).
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