TheNational Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services (NATSILS) call on governments to do everything in their power to prevent Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander deaths in custody due to COVID-19. COVID-19 will impact First Nations people hardest, particularly imprisoned children and adults around the country because many of them are already chronically ill, are living with disability or they are parents with children who depend on them.
- Governments should not criminalise behaviour relating to COVID-19; strong public communications and a public health response will be more effective in flattening the curve than heavy-handed fines and imprisonment.
- Governments must ensure that First Nations communities have easy access to income support, appropriate healthcare, affordable basics like medications and food as well as accessible and safe social and public housing now and into the future.
- All children and young people on remand must be allowed to return home to their country and communities, after a period of isolation if necessary. Restrictive measures such as lockdowns and restraints can have life-long impacts for young people.
- As per the advice from the World Health Organisation, all Departments of Corrections must make decisions regarding lock-down and isolation procedures according to medical necessity and as a result of clinical decisions and subject to all state, Commonwealth, and international laws.