Briefing paper

Indigenous people in Australia and New Zealand and the intergenerational effects of incarceration

Indigenous families Indigenous incarceration Intergenerational relations Maori-Government relations Australia New Zealand

Indigenous Australians are imprisoned at the highest rate of any people in the world, and at a rate 16 times higher than non-Indigenous Australains. Meanwhile the Māori in Aotearoa New Zealand are imprisoned at 7 times the rate of the general population. These disproportional rates of imprisonment lead to disproportional impacts on Indigenous and Māori children.

Key Findings:

  • Policies and programs must consider individual, structural, and socio-economic factors in supporting Indigenous parents and families to deal with the complex traumas and issues associated with parental imprisonment.
  • Sentencing statutes in Australia and New Zealand include the principle that imprisonment should be a sanction of last resort. Reducing incarceration rates would eliminate the issues that arise from parental incarceration.
  • Correctional centres can support families by providing opportunities to maintain or re-establish parent-child bonds when a parent is incarcerated.
  • At sentencing, community sanctions should be prioritised over imprisonment whenever possible. This includes having appropriate resources and opportunities to facilitate community-based sanctions.
Publication Details
Research Brief 26, December 2019