Australia's burgeoning population of young Aboriginal prisoners is a “national crisis” that needs urgent and wide-ranging government action, an Australian Parliamentary report warned on June 20.

Aboriginal children are 28 times more likely than other Australian children to be sent to a juvenile detention centre, the report on indigenous youth in the criminal justice system found. The report comes as the government strives to close the life expectancy gap of more than a decade between Aborigines and other Australians by addressing poor health, unemployment, low education levels as well as alcohol and drug abuse among indigenous people.

While Aborigines make up an impoverished minority of only 2.5 per cent of Australia's 22 million population, 25 per cent of the Australian prison population is indigenous.

The 346-page report released by a committee of seven government and opposition lawmakers specialising in indigenous issues made 40 wide-ranging recommendations that attack many underlying causes for young indigenous Australians getting in trouble with police.

They recommend the government recognise as a registered disability the brain damage suffered by Aboriginal children whose their mothers drank alcohol, known as fetal alcohol spectrum disorder. They also found many children are partially deaf because they suffer more middle ear diseases than other Australians. This deafness has negative consequences for their school attendance and their experiences with police, courts and detention centres. The report recommends that the government tests the hearing of all Aboriginal children in their first years of school.

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