Closing The Gap: Indigenous hearing health and criminal justice

There is a pressing need to specifically address the high rates of hearing loss among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in contact with the criminal justice system, with rates as high as 80-95% in some communities.

In the spirit of reconciliation we acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of country throughout Australia and their connections to land, sea and community. We pay our respect to their Elders past and present and extend that respect to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples today.

Deafness Forum and its members have been involved in various reports to the Australian Government highlighting the high rates of hearing loss amongst Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Together, we have been advocating for improved funding, resources, and programs to address these health disparities.

The Australian Law Reform Commission (2017) report Pathways to Justice–Inquiry into the Incarceration Rate of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples estimated that the annual economic burden of the incarceration of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples was nearly $8 billion, with that figure expected to rise to over $20 billion without appropriate intervention

As well as the enormous economic burden to society and particularly First Nations communities, Australia’s commitments under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities is currently being neglected, with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples with hearing loss experiencing unlawful discrimination on a regular basis.

Our justice system remains ineffective in addressing the complex needs and vulnerabilities of this population.

This new report from Deafness Forum aims to provide evidence of the perpetual cycle that exists between childhood ear disease in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and how it impacts the disproportionally higher rates of incarceration for this population and makes recommendations accordingly.

Download to read Addressing the Hearing Health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples in the criminal justice system.