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A new look at Aboriginal sentencing? - Podcast

An application to the High Court has a chance to reopen some serious questions about Aboriginal life and imprisonment in Australia.

It involves the case of a New South Wales man named William David Bugmy.

But it could end up affecting many more cases -- or, more specifically, sentences -- if the Court decides to hear it.

Ron Sutton has the story.

It is an age-old question: Just when do a person's childhood travails stop serving as a viable explanation for his or her actions as an adult?

Or do they ever?

Now, the Aboriginal Legal Service wants Australia's High Court to consider that question in light of the sentencing of an Aboriginal man who lived a deeply troubled youth.

Listen to the Pdcast here:http://www.sbs.com.au/podcasts/Podcasts/radionews/episode/255614/A-new-look-at-Aboriginal-sentencing

"Prison rates have got worse... Unfortunately, since 1992 there's been a very strong law-and-order climate which has pushed lawmakers - and, consequently, judges who apply those laws - in the direction of incarceration. And so I think there now needs to be some kind of tide against that, because we're seeing that incarceration doesn't work and there needs to be solutions about community justice or community [justice] reinvestment, as it's called."

"...After people have come in and out of jail -- and that's, obviously, especially common among Indigenous people -- the benefit of jail should be seen as being relatively small, and the benefits of rehabilitation and other forms of sentencing should be relatively great..."

Thalia Anthony
Lecturer in law, University of Technology in Sydney
Author of Indigenous People: Crime and Punishment