Criminal Justice Paper

Title: Justice Proposal

Introduction. 2

Situation analysis (the problem). 3

Literature review.. 4

Research objectives. 7

Research hypothesis. 8

Study design (research methods). 8

Data analysis. 9

Conclusion. 9

References. 9

Research Topic: The role played by the police, the courts, and the community in the failure to implement the recommendations of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal deaths in custody in Queensland Australia


The Royal Commission into aboriginal deaths in custody was formed in 1987 following a spate of aboriginal deaths within the prison and police custody. The commission was also a response to a growing public concern that the deaths were becoming too common and poorly accounted for. The hearing of the commission started in 1988 and a presentation f the final report was made in 1991.


The royal commission revealed that the aboriginal people were continuing to die at a rate of one person every month, a situation that had been going on for a very long time (Behrendt &Behrendt1992, p. 5). Interim reports were meant to express the suggestions and recommendations, which, upon implementation, would drastically reduce the number of the aboriginal people who were dying in custody (Harding 1995, p. 24, p. Cunneen, 1992, p. 6). The report suggested that imprisonment should be the last resort, that public drunkards should de decriminalize, and staff members should be educated on aboriginal culture and health issues and the isolation and screening of all racist attitudes (McNamara 1992, p. 212). Continued deaths could have been successfully prevented if the recommendations contained in the Interim Report had been acted on by various governments with immediate effect (Carcach 1999, p. 15). In other words, the reports of the inquiry into various individual deaths by the Royal Commissioner have been largely ignored (Behrendt & Behrendt 1992, p. 5). Many key recommendations made in the National Report are yet to be implemented and the responses made on the Royal Commission’s recommendations by governments have largely been unac(acceptable (Levy 2005, p. 65).

This research proposal describes the procedure for researching on the role of the police, the courts, and the community in making impossible the implementation of all the recommendations of the Royal Commission.

Situation analysis (the problem)

The commission found out that the rate at which the aboriginal people are being taken into custody remains overwhelmingly different. Concerning aboriginal deaths in custody, the report showed that after peaking in 1997, the deaths have fallen steadily until 2007, a time when 74 aboriginal people were reported to have died in prison custody or in the hands of police.

It is the duty of the police to care for all offenders no matter what they have done (Bennett 1994, p. 46). The report concluded that too many aborigines are being continually brought into custody too often. The report of the Royal Commission contained 339 recommendations, none of which has been implemented (Marchetti 2004, p. 223, Williams 2001, p. 8). The recommendations touch on areas that involve the community, the police and the courts and correctional facilities. One of the recommendations, for instance, is that people should be arrested only when there are no other ways for dealing with this problem (Kelly 2001, p. 158). It was also recommended that a formal process for reconciling the Aboriginal people with the wider community.

A survey done by Krieg (2006, p. 101) revealed that Australian states had acted on only a fraction of the recommendations. Victoria had acted on only 27%, NSW 48%, South Australia 52%, Tasmania 41% and Western Australia 50%. Aboriginal deaths in custody were taking place before the formation of the commission and they still happen today.

There is the problem of underrepresentation of aboriginals in the police as well as the jury that hears cases against police officers who brutally beat aboriginals (Cunneen 2001, p. 56). Claims of foul play have been leveled against the courts for being unfair in their outcomes (Australian Indigenous Law Reporter editors 1998, p. 448). They often rule in favor of the offending police officers, even when the evidence against them is overwhelming (Evans 1994, p. 280).

Literature review

Marchetti (2005, p. 104) did a critical analysis of the recommendations of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal deaths in custody. Marchetti observes that more than a decade after the RCIADIC), tabling of the National Report by the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody (notes that over a decade ago, the recommendations still remain a subject of heated debates, particularly the issue of aboriginal over-representation in custody.

Marchetti (2005, p. 104) expresses the need for investigating the political constraints surrounding the functionality of the procedures used by the RCIADIC. His study involved 48 people associated with RCIADIC, who were interviewed. The main aim was to determine the process of forming the commission, the way it conducted its activities, and the problems it may have encountered when confronting the Australian justice system.


Marchetti (2006, p. 451) demonstrates the way in which legal processes that are being utilized by the institutions that have been established in order to oversee the reversal of the effects of colonization can be used to continue promoting the colonization agenda. This explains the presence of ‘deep’ instead of ‘de’-colonizing practices, as evident in the failure to implement the report on aboriginal deaths in custody.

Marchetti (2006, p. 453) observes that the RCIADIC, which tabled its complete National Report over a decade ago, was supposed to set the example of a ‘decolonizing’ institution. Unfortunately, it has inadvertently adopted many colonizing practices. It was expected that RCIADIC could transform the politics of the Australian indigenous people.

Using data from 48 indigenous people and non-indigenous people with some of kind of association with RCIADIC, Marchetti (2006, p. 453) expanded Deborah Bird Rose’s theoretical construction of ‘deep colonizing practices’. On this basis, he illustrated the extent of difficulties experienced in shifting hegemonic legal beliefs and processes, despite concerted intentions to embrace and empower indigenous views.

Houston (2008, p. 1) highlighted some of the responses made by police officers around Australia on the question of what they think of the Royal Commission’s recommendations. The study from which these responses were gathered was conducted by the Indigenous Law Bulletin, whereby police were contacted in each territory and state. Each service was advised beforehand of the interviewer’s intentions and that the survey was merely an assessment of the police’s response to the recommendations of RCIADIC.  Only three out of the eight services that were contacted responded.

In Victoria, the police responded by saying that they have developed initiated the task of improving the interactions between the police and the indigenous people by implementing the Koori Action plan, which has direct links with the Victorian Aboriginal Justice Agreement (Howells 2008, p. 96).

Sansbury (2001, p. 124) observes that when the report of RCIADIC was finalized and then handed to various governments for endorsements, the aboriginal people and various communities expected various changes that would ultimately improve aboriginal people’s living standards. Particularly, there was great hope that incarceration rates would reduce just as much as the extraordinarily high number of deaths in custody. Ten years on, puts on Sansbury, things have become worse rather than better (Edney 2004, p. 111).

Numerous reports have been written about the disadvantages faced by the aboriginal people in Australia (Leicester 1995, p. 251). In 1997, an aboriginal delegation attended the Ministerial Summit on Aboriginal Deaths in Custody, where every state government with the exception of Northern Territory pledged to be committed through a communiqué to fully implement all the RCIADIC’s recommendations as well as to develop various jurisdictional plans and service agreements under law and justice. Sansbury (2001, p.132) expresses her disappointment that what has been achieved so far amounts to nothing.

Boughton (1997, p. 1-101) studied the representation of the needs, rights and interests of aborigines. One of the issues Boughton explored is the extent to which the recommendations of the RCIADIC had been implemented in various practices and policies of territory, state, and commonwealth agencies responsible for educating aboriginal adults. The research found out that little efforts have been made by courts, the correction system, the police and the Australian community in addressing the plight of aboriginal people, particularly deaths in custody.

Behrendt, (1992, p. 24) notes that three years after the close of RCIADIC investigations, 33 aboriginal people have already died in custody. In his study on the level of implementation of RCIADIC’s recommendations, Behrendt (1992, 21) highlighted the various aspects of court systems and corrective services. Behrendt states that the commonwealth and state governments have for a long time had the benefit of many supplementary reports, including the Interim Report, and Regional Reports of Inquiry and the Report of Inquiry into 99 Deaths. None of these reports have been acted on.

Research objectives

  1. To find the role of the police in failure to implement the recommendations of the RCIADIC’s recommendations.
  2. To identify the way in which the courts and corrective services have participated in the delay of implementation of the recommendations of RCIADIC.
  3. To explore the ways in which the Australian community’s perceptions, prejudices, and attitudes hinder the process of implementing the RCIADIC’s recommendations.
  4. To determine the level of implementation of the report of RCIADIC as well as other supplementary reports emphasizing the need for the issue of aboriginal over-representation in the criminal justice system in Australia to be addressed.

Research hypothesis

The research hypothesis for this research paper will be: the Australian police, courts and community, all have done little to eliminate the problem of aboriginal deaths in custody.

Study design (research methods)

The study will be based solely on interviews of five randomly selected officials in the three categories of people: the police, the courts (correction system), and the community. The interviewer will prepare a question sheet that will guide his interaction with the questioning procedure for each of the 15 respondents.

In the case of the police and courts, the individuals will be requested to give their personal opinions, followed by the ‘official’ opinion, that is, the view that closely resembles the authority’s position. For members of the Australian community, the questions posed will investigate the prevailing prejudices, if any, against the aboriginal people, and the ways in which these prejudices have influenced the respondent into failing to contribute to the implementation of the recommendations.

Data analysis

The results of the interviews will be tabulated and an analysis of the views of different sections of the sample will be done. The views will be used to make generalizations on the extent to which the various institutions have failed the aboriginal people as far as their ever-increasing deaths in custody are concerned. On this same note, the outcome of the data analysis process will be used to either approve of the hypothesis or to disapprove it.


In summary, this research proposal highlights the entire procedure for carrying out a research on how the courts, the police, and the Australian community contribute to the continued existence of overrepresentation of the aboriginal people in the criminal justice system. Specifically, this research will address the aboriginal deaths, and circumstances surrounding the persistent failure for the recommendations of the RCIADIC to be implemented, ten years after they were tabled by the Royal Commission.


Australian Indigenous Law Reporter editors 1998, ‘Five Years On: The Commonwealth Government Responses to the Recommendations of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody – Australian Indigenous Law Reporter, Vol. 3, No. 3, pp. 448-469.

Bennett, D 1994, ‘Queensland’s AJAC Initiatives in Criminal Justice’, Aboriginal Law Bulletin, Vol. 3, No. 69, 34-67.

Boughton, B 1997, Education for self-determination: a review of the implementation of the recommendations of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody in relation to Aboriginal community-controlled adult education: a project report to the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies, Retrieved from, on October 24, 2010.

Carcach, C 1999, Australian Corrections: The Imprisonment of Indigenous People, Australian Institute of Criminology, Victoria.

Cunneen, C 2001, Conflict, Politics and Crime: Aboriginal Communities and the Police, Allen & Unwin, Victoria.

Cunneen, C 1992, ‘Aboriginal Imprisonment During and Since the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody’ Aboriginal Law Bulletin, Vol. 1, No. 55, 13-38.

Edney, R 2004, ‘R V Scobie: Finally Taking the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody Seriously?’ Indigenous Law Bulletin, Vol. 6, No. 2, pp. 109-117.

Evans, J 1994, ‘NSW Aboriginal Justice Advisory Committee: Recommendations and Terms of Reference’ Aboriginal Law Bulletin, Vol. 3, No. 68, pp. 276-303.

Harding, R 1995, Aboriginal Contact with the Criminal Justice System and the Impact of the Royal Commission Into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody, Crime Research Centre, Victoria.

Houston, J 2008, Policing around Australia: How have Police Responded to the Royal Commission’s Recommendations? Indigenous Law Bulletin, Vol. 3, No. 2, pp. 1-4.

Howells, K 2008, The Rehabilitation of Offenders: International Perspectives Applied to Australian Correctional Systems, Australian Institute of Criminology, Victoria.

Kelly, L 2001, ‘State and Territory Implementation of the Recommendations of the Royal Commission: New South Wales’ Indigenous Law Bulletin, Vol. 5, No. 8, pp. 143-176.

Krieg, A 2006, ‘Aboriginal incarceration: health and social impacts’ MJA, Vol. 184, No. 10, pp. 534-536.

Leicester, S 1995, ‘Policing in Wiluna: A Desert Community Takes Issue with Over-Policing, Meal Allowances, and Social Justice, Vol. 3, No. 72, Aboriginal Law Bulletin, pp. 209-253.

Levy, M 2005, ‘Prisoner health care provision: Reflections from Australia’ International Journal of Prisoner Health, Vol. 1, No. 1, pp. 65 – 73.

Marchetti, E. 2006, ‘The Deep Colonizing Practices of the Australian Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody’ Journal of Law and Society, Vol. 33, No. 3, pp. 451–474.

Marchetti, E 2005, ‘Critical reflections upon Australia’s royal commission into Aboriginal deaths in custody’ Macquarie Law Journal, Vol. 5, 103-123.

Marchetti, E 2004, Trends & issues in crime and criminal justice, Australian Institute of Criminology, Victoria.

McNamara, L 1992, ‘Autonomy-Based Solutions and Criminal Justice Reform – a Comparison of the Recommendations of the Australian Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody and the Aboriginal Justice Inquiry of Manitoba’ Aboriginal Law Bulletin, Vol. 1, No. 54, pp. 198-217.

Sansbury, T 2001, ‘State and Territory Implementation of the Recommendations of the Royal Commission: Overview’, Indigenous Law Bulletin, Vol.  5, No. 8, 119-142.

Williams,P 2001, Deaths in Custody: 10 Years on From the Royal Commission,      Australian Institute of Criminology, Victoria.

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