[Weatherburn] was frustrated at the failure to reduce Aboriginal deaths in custody after the royal commission into the issue, angry that the subject had disappeared from the news even as rates of Aboriginal imprisonment per head of population continued to rise and disappointed with the scholarly debate about its causes.
‘People had started out with this narrative about injustice,’ he says, ‘and it’s one of those cases when the premises of the argument are true but the conclusion is wrong. Yes, there was injustice but that’s not the reason why we have Aboriginal over-representation in prisons, not in the main.’
He says it is clear that violence in Aboriginal communities is rife and the principal victims are Aborigines.
Weatherburn’s solutions include restrictions on alcohol and drug-reduction strategies involving more arrests at street-dealer level. Better school performance, a focus on child abuse and neglect, and more jobs are also needed, he says. But his focus is on ‘particularly alcohol and particularly mothers’, who tend to end up doing most of the child-rearing.’

  • Excerpt from ‘Bringing reality to rhetoric on crime’, Mark Dapin interviewing author Don Weatherburn about Arresting incarceration, published by Aboriginal Studies Press, February 2014, News Review, Sydney Morning Herald, 12 March 2014.