‘Incarceration Nation’ Puts Australia’s Abuse of First Nation Peoples Under a Microscope


On August 27, NITV will air the incredibly important documentary, Incarceration Nation —  putting First Nations voices front and centre, as they fight for change, visibility and equality.

The disturbing reality is that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are amongst the most incarcerated people in the world, despite making up just 3.3% of the Australian population. Indigenous men make up 27% of prisoners and Indigenous women constitute 34% of prisoners while approximately 65% of incarcerated children aged between 10 and 13 in Australia are Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander peoples.

Additionally, Indigenous youth make up 55% of Australia’s youth prison population.

Between 1991 and 2021 there have been at least 478 Indigenous deaths in custody in Australia — including the high profile case of David Dungay Jr, a Dunghutti man from Kempsey who died in Sydney’s Long Bay jail in 2015. No criminal convictions have ever resulted from these deaths, allowing perpetrators and law enforcement officials to feel as though they can act with impunity.

In Incarceration Nation, writer and director and Guugu Yimithirr man Dean Gibson explores the firsthand devastation by those affected, meets those who are trying to make a difference and discusses this systemic problem with some of our nation’s brightest minds.

Gibson’s objective is to uncover how this pervasive problem has reached crisis point and has been recognised internationally as a human rights issue, yet constantly seems to slip through the cracks of the national agenda.

Through archive footage and interviews with experts and academics, Incarceration Nation gives voice to those for whom this is lived experience — Keenan Mundine, Carly Stanley as well as the Dungay, Fisher, Day and Hickey families who each share the trauma of losing a family member whilst they were in custody.

It is through the lens of those most affected that the documentary reflects on Australia’s checkered history, and how massacres, child removals, stolen wages, denial of education and over-policing, racism and systemic bias have continued to drive the overrepresentation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the criminal justice system, and the devastating impact it continues to have.

In a press statement, Gibson said: “Australia was founded by the English with one clear purpose — to create a prison island. Over 200 years later, not much has changed. Rather than housing criminals from England, we are filling our jails with our most vulnerable and disadvantaged population.

“Families live with the trauma of losing loved ones who have been in police custody or imprisoned, and that trauma continues when no one is held accountable. No justice, no peace. Incarceration Nation will be a national conversation starter that will challenge Australia and the justice system.”

Incarceration Nation will air on August 29 at 8:30pm on NITV and will also be available to stream on SBS On Demand. The documentary will also be featured as part of the ‘Australia Uncovered’ documentary series on SBS later this year.

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