Speaking on National Close the Gap Day on 17 March, Gary Oliver said federal, state and territory governments should introduce targets to lower the number of Aboriginal adults and children in prisons.
“As staggering as it sounds, the truth is that more than one third of all the adults [in prison] are Aboriginal, and over half the children are Aboriginal,” he said.
Mr Oliver also called for governments to address the large numbers of Aboriginal children in out-of-home care.
“Research tells us, those kids tell us, that since removal, those children suffer a loss of identity, a loss of place, a loss of family connection, a loss of personal dignity, a loss of educational achievement, a loss of direction,” he said.
“Research tells us, and our clients tell us, there is a clear nexus between the removal of children and juvenile detention.”
There are 6,000 Aboriginal children in out-of-home care in NSW, making up one third of the total care population of more than 19,000 children, according to Aboriginal Legal Service (NSW/ACT).
“We ask the government to introduce care and justice targets for Aboriginal people to turn around this sickening state of affairs, because without these targets that are hurting so many of our people, no other target will be achieved,” said Mr Oliver.
National Close the Gap Day is a national day in support of achieving Indigenous health equality by 2030.