Treatment not prison for our mob:New landmark report reveals $111,000 can be saved per year per offender by diverting non-violent Indigenous offenders into treatment instead of prison


A new landmark report clearly shows that $111,000 can be saved per year per offender by diverting non-violent Indigenous offenders into treatment instead of prison.

 The major accounting firm Deloitte Access Economics produced the extensive report for the National Indigenous Drug and Alcohol Committee of the Australian National Council on Drugs (Deloitte operates in over 150 countries globally).

Download media release and report extracts

 The extensive report reveals by diverting Indigenous offenders into treatment there is a $111,000 saving per Indigenous offender per year in direct financial savings plus an overall saving of $92,000 per Indigenous offender from better health and quality of life outcomes. The analysis projected costs over a 10 year period. NIDAC says it is clearly time to end the shameful level of Indigenous imprisonment in Australia.

 Currently there are just over 29,000 prisoners incarcerated across Australia – a huge 26% of them (7,656) are Indigenous people. Indigenous adults are now 14 times more likely to be incarcerated than non Indigenous people.

 Deloitte Access Economics has assessed the costs and benefits of investing in community based residential alcohol and other drug treatment as opposed to incarcerating Indigenous people with substance use problems convicted of non violent crimes. The report reveals there is clear evidence that offenders with multiple terms of incarceration are more likely to return to prison and are more likely to be Indigenous.

 The report concludes there are “considerable benefits associated with the diversion of Indigenous prisoners into community residential drug and alcohol rehabilitation services instead of incarceration. Diversion is associated with both financial savings as well as improvements in health and mortality.”

 A recent Victorian study found 35% of those who have been imprisoned will return to prison within 2 years of release. However 50% of Indigenous prisoners would be back in prison within 2 years indicating that the incarceration of Indigenous offenders is likely to be associated with significant future costs to society.

 NIDAC highlights that despite a 1991 report from the Royal Commission into aboriginal deaths in custody which clearly highlighted the need to lower the number of Indigenous people in prison, this has simply not been achieved. The 1991 Royal Commission indicated that ‘imprisonment should be utilised only as a sanction of last resort’.

 In 2010 – 2011 more than $3 billion was spent on Australian prisons. At the same time NIDAC says funding for numerous services to assist Indigenous people with drug and alcohol problem has been reduced or stopped by governments.

 The Chair of NIDAC Associate Professor Ted Wilkes said, “Imprisonment is destroying our people, families and communities. It has to be addressed as a matter of absolute urgency. Diverting people away from prisons leads to better health outcomes, it can help avoid negative labelling and stigma associated with criminal conduct. It can prevent further offending and reduce the number of people going to prison.”

 The report reveals in 2011 Australia had 115 correctional custodial facilities and in 2010–2011 more than $3 billion was spent on Australian prisons ($2.3 billion was net operating expenditure and $0.8 billion was capital costs). In comparison in 2009–2010 there were 30 facilities nationwide providing residential drug and treatment services to indigenous people. NIDAC says prisons are an ineffective setting to treat the underlying reason that often drives indigenous people there.

 NIDAC calls on all governments to develop and support a COAG commitment to Justice Reinvestment that involves shifting spending away from imprisonment towards community based programs and services.

 The current levels of incarceration for Indigenous men, women, and young people are 4,093 men, 405 women, and 128 young people per 100,000 of the relevant populations. The contrasting levels for non-Indigenous people are 234 men, 17 women, and 11 young people per 100,000 of the relevant populations. The rates of Indigenous women in prison, has increased by 343% between 1993 and 2003 and 10% between 2006 and 2009.

 The report also highlights that currently Indigenous Australians are underrepresented in diversions by courts to drug and alcohol treatment facilities. In 2009 – 10 out of a total 17,589 referrals from court diversion, 13.7% were for Indigenous people – far lower than the proportion of people incarcerated who are Indigenous.

 Deputy Co Chair of NIDAC, Mr Scott Wilson adds, “Diverting offenders from prison into treatment services makes perfect sense. Re-offending rates are high and incarceration is associated with poor health outcomes for prisoners, including a higher risk of death after release. 68% of Indigenous prison entrants self report having used illicit drugs during the preceding 12 months. Indigenous men were significantly more likely to report that they were intoxicated at the time of the offence. Do governments really believe that prison is the best answer to these problems?”

 Dr John Herron, Chairman of the Australian National Council on Drugs says, “We are not suggesting that governments do away with prisons, there is obviously a need for them particularly for violent offenders. However, this study deliberately excluded those prisoners who stated that their most serious offence was a violent offence.”

 Gino Vumbaca, Executive Director of the ANCD added: “The ANCD & NIDAC are calling for a halt on the building and expansion of prisons and for that funding to instead be invested into expanding community based initiatives, including residential alcohol and other drug rehabilitation. Simply taking the same old tired and ineffective approach year after year must change.”

On World Cancer Day NACCHO supports new network to push Indigenous cancer into the spotlight

Cancer 1

A new national cancer research network will launch on World Cancer Day aimed at improving quality of life and survival rates among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cancer patients in Australia.

Cancer is the second leading cause of death among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.


 The National Indigenous Cancer Network (NICaN) launches at Cancer Council Australia in Sydney today; it encourages and supports collaboration in Indigenous cancer research and the delivery of services to Indigenous people with cancer, including carers and families.

Senior cancer researcher Associate Professor Gail Garvey of the Menzies School of Health Research said today’s launch, fittingly coinciding with World Cancer Day, represents a huge step forward towards closing the gap on Indigenous cancer mortality rates.

“Until now cancer has been a low priority on the Indigenous health agenda, despite the disease being the second leading cause of death among Indigenous people and accounting for a greater number of deaths each year than diabetes and kidney disease.

“We know that Indigenous people with cancer have more advanced disease when diagnosed, are less likely to receive treatment, and are more likely to die from their cancers than other Australians. There is a clear need to improve health services for people with cancer by utilising the information we do have and by identifying knowledge gaps.

 “NICaN is about making sure that what’s known about cancer in Indigenous Australians is available for use by people with cancer, their families, practitioners, policy makers and researchers,” Assoc Prof Garvey said.

 Professor Ian Olver, CEO, Cancer Council Australia said NICaN will bring together key researchers, practitioners, and consumer advocacy groups from across Australia.

“NICaN will actively promote the conversion of research knowledge into Australian health policy and practices, as well as identify areas where more research is needed.”

 Indigenous breast cancer survivor Adelaide Saylor joined today’s launch to raise awareness about NICaN and the 2013 World Cancer Day theme: ‘dispelling damaging myths and misconceptions about cancer’.

 Mrs Saylor, who was born in Babinda, North Queensland, and lives in Brisbane, said this year’s theme was particularly relevant given the lack of open discussion and general awareness about cancer in many Indigenous communities.

 “I had breast cancer two years ago and the only reason I got checked was because my husband forced me to go to an appointment. I was lucky because the tumor was only the size of a grain of rice and I recovered after chemotherapy.

 “I didn’t know much about cancer because it was never spoken about with our mob even though four of my aunties were diagnosed with cancer – two with bowel cancer; one with cervical cancer; and one with breast cancer. Two of my aunties later died. That forced my other aunties to act and now they’re living healthy normal lives.

“I think NICaN is a wonderful initiative because it will raise awareness amongst Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and that is desperately needed,” said Mrs Saylor.

  Along with NICaN network meetings and roundtables, NICaN’s resources  include plain language information about cancer, state and national policies and strategies that address cancer among Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander peoples, programs and projects, a comprehensive depository of publications and organisations, conference presentations, and workforce and training opportunities.

 NICaN is a partnership between Menzies School of Health Research, the Australian Indigenous HealthInfoNet, the Lowitja Institute, Cancer Council Australia and Indigenous audiences, consumers, researchers and health professionals from a broad range of disciplines, service providers, private sector and government organisations.

 For more background read:
For more information visit 

Facts about Indigenous cancer

  • Cancer survival is lower for Indigenous Australians than it is for non-Indigenous Australians. It is the second leading cause of death among Indigenous people, accounting for a greater number of deaths each year than diabetes and kidney disease
  • The death rate for all cancers combined and for most individual cancers is significantly higher for Indigenous than other Australians: e.g. cervical cancer (4.4 times), lung cancer (1.8), pancreatic cancer (1.3) and breast cancer in females (1.3)
  • Indigenous Australians have a much lower incidence of some cancers compared to other Australians (breast, prostate, testicular, colorectal and brain cancer, melanoma of skin, lymphoma and leukaemia) but they have a much higher incidence of others (lung and other smoking-related cancers, cervix, uterus and liver cancer).

 For example:

  • Cervical cancer incidence rate is almost three times as higher for Indigenous Australians as for non-Indigenous Australians (18 and 7 per 100,000 respectively).
  • Incidence rates of lung cancer are significantly higher for Indigenous Australians than for non-Indigenous Australians (1.9 times)
  • Most of the cancers that have a high occurrence among Indigenous people are preventable, including cervix, liver and smoking related cancers
  • Indigenous adult cancer patients have substantial unmet supportive care needs. Their highest needs include additional support with psychological and practical assistance
  • Basic infrastructure and logistical issues may also impede Indigenous people’s access to cancer care and treatment services. These include a lack in the provision of transport and having appropriate travel arrangements, and suitable accommodation for both the patient and their support person

Menzies Background

Menzies School of Health Research is a national leader in Indigenous and tropical health research. It is the only medical research institute in the Northern Territory, with more than 300 staff working in over 60 communities across central and northern Australia, as well as developing countries in the Asia-Pacific region. Menzies is also a significant contributor to health education and research training.

NACCHO partnership with Menzies Talking about the Smokes (TATS)

New approach starting to ‘close the gap’ in WA Aboriginal Health

This is a WA government press release FYI 16 October 2012

The State Government’s biggest single investment into Aboriginal health in Western Australian history had resulted in nearly 100 new services for Aboriginal people and more than 100 new Aboriginal health employees, Health Minister Kim Hames said today.

Under the Council of Australian Government’s (COAG) Closing the Gap National Partnership Agreement, which is now in its final year, the State Government has provided $117.43million to ‘close the gap’ between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal health.

Dr Hames said about $80 million to date had been directed into new programs and services to improve smoking rates, primary health care and a healthy transition to adulthood for Aboriginal people.

“One of the biggest achievements under the Closing the Gap initiative is the creation of more than 400 new positions – more than 60 per cent in regional and remote areas – to support 98 new Aboriginal services across the State,” he said.

The Minister said the initiative had also provided WA Health with an opportunity to change the way it developed and implemented health services for Aboriginal West Australians.

“The State Government has decentralised its approach and established nine metropolitan and regional Aboriginal Health Planning Forums to foster a genuine partnership between ourselves, non-government and Aboriginal communities at a local level,” he said.
 “We have moved away from the ‘one size fits all’ approach by recognising each region and its population is unique in its cultural diversity, and therefore requires a customised approach to planning and delivering services.

“At February 2012, the number of Aboriginal people employed in the WA health sector has risen by 111 to 314 employees.

   Fact File

  • WA Health developing business plan to potentially continue Closing the Gap initiative past the final year of the initial COAG agreement

Minister’s office – 08 6552 5300

New campaign in WA:Alcohol and drugs can lead to regrets for young Aboriginals

Press release from WA Mental health

Alcohol and drugs can lead to regrets

New cinema and radio ads designed for young Aboriginal people •

Campaign focus on impact on the mind, body, law and support


New cinema and radio advertisements form part of an innovative campaign to prevent and reduce harm caused by alcohol and other drug (AOD) use among young Aboriginal people.

Mental Health Minister Helen Morton said the advertisements would feature as part of the ‘Strong Spirit Strong Mind’ Metro Project, which aimed to strengthen the range of AOD prevention and service responses for Aboriginal young people, their families and communities in the Perth metropolitan area.

“This campaign has been designed with help from Aboriginal young people keen to get the message out that alcohol and drugs can lead to doing things they may regret, and to encourage those who need help to seek support,” Mrs Morton said.

“The advertisements are the first of their kind for young Aboriginal people in Perth, and it’s great to see a focus on alcohol and cannabis, which are the primary drugs of concern.”

Consultation with Aboriginal youth groups and agencies identified that the campaign should focus on the effects of alcohol and other drugs on the mind and body, the law and where to get support.

The campaign is expected to run initially for four weeks, in metropolitan cinemas and radio. Funding for the ‘Strong Spirit Strong Mind’ Metro Project was made available through the Council of Australian Governments Closing the Gap National Partnership Agreement, and includes culturally secure prevention and early intervention initiatives, along with the establishment of an outreach treatment team.

Fact File •

In 2011, 77% of treatment episodes for Aboriginal young people indicated alcohol or cannabis as primary drug of concern •

Surveys show Aboriginal people less likely to drink alcohol than non-Aboriginal people, but those who do, more likely to do so at harmful levels •

More information: or Minister’s office – 6552 6900

WA building partnership to improve Aboriginal men’s health


WA Health’s commitment to building partnerships with non-government organisations and Aboriginal communities will help to improve health outcomes for Aboriginal men.

The Aboriginal Men’s Health Strategy 2012–2015 , released last week, aims to ensure Aboriginal men live long and healthy lives.

“Aboriginal men are often reluctant to talk about their health, to participate in programs designed to prevent ill health, or to seek treatment when they need it,” Aboriginal Health Director Jenni Collard said.

“This often results in health problems not being acknowledged until they become too serious to ignore.”

The strategy aims to:

  • promote Aboriginal men’s health as a priority issue for the health sector, communities and individuals
  • encourage Aboriginal men to prioritise their health needs
  • work with service providers to support Aboriginal men to use their services.

“Increasing WA Health’s engagement with Aboriginal communities and building partnerships with service providers and non-government organisations across the state will help deliver improved health services,” Ms Collard said.

The strategy also acknowledges that a health workforce that understands cultural links is critical to improving health care options for Aboriginal men.

“Initiatives such as online cultural eLearning packages are just one way WA Health is already working to build the cultural understanding of its workforce,” Ms Collard said.