Let’s at least ask the right question.

Some inconvenient truths for white Australians.

Peter Mulraney


Photo by Zoe VandeWater on Unsplash

If you focus only on the number of Indigenous deaths in custody, you’re missing the real issue.

According to a report from the Australian Institute of Criminology, covering deaths in custody for the 25 year period from the publication of the final report of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody to 2015–16, Indigenous Australians in custody die at the same rate as non-Indigenous Australians in custody and for generally the same reasons — mostly natural causes. The average annual numbers are not high either: 15.7 indigenous and 66 non-Indigenous deaths per year.

If your focus is on deaths in police custody, the numbers are divided into two categories:

  • category 1 where police were in close contact, and
  • category 2 where police were not in close contact

with the deceased.

The average annual number of deaths in police custody over the twenty five year period from the time of the Royal Commission to 2015–16 are: 5.8 for Indigenous Australians and 23.8 for non-Indigenous Australians.

The percentage of deaths classified as category 1 and 2 are the same for both Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians: 44% category 1 and 56% category 2. That’s an annual average of less than 3 category 1 deaths of Indigenous Australians in police custody.

If you read the report of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody, or even just its summary, you’ll discover, as I did, that the real problem is not that Indigenous Australians die in custody or that they are treated any differently than non-Indigenous Australians once they are in custody — they’re not. It’s that there are too many of them in custody.



Peter Mulraney

Peter Mulraney is a crime writing, modern-day mystic with an interest in personal growth, social justice and current affairs. www.petermulraney.com