In 2018, a report written by Sophie Russell and Chris
Cunneen stated that Indigenous Incarceration has increased by 45% in the last
decade – that’s from 2008 -2018. We make up under 3% of the population, and yet
28% of the adult prison population. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women
are 21 times more likely to be in custody than non-Indigenous women. It’s even
worse for children, they make up 7% of the general youth population, and yet,
54% of those in youth detention across Australia are Indigenous. Just
this week, there have been reports of an Indigenous child with
developmental issues, only 10 years old, being left in adult lockup for three
days, naked, with only a sheet to keep him warm. It’s not even the first time
I’ve heard of this sort of thing happening, although I’ve never heard of it happening
to a non-Indigenous person.
The statistics are disgusting, disappointing, and tell a
terrible story of colonisation, intergenerational trauma, and a
low-socioeconomic environment. Screening at this years Melbourne
Documentary Film Festivalas the closing night film is Art of Incarceration. As the film opens,
we’re shown some of these statistics, and while the documentary is
heartbreaking at times, it’s also eye-opening, insightful and shows the
positive work been done to help incarcerated people.
Since 2011, The Torch
has been providing guidance and leadership to men and women in incarceration
through art. The Torch features large in Art
of Incarceration, allowing an exploration into how art connects culture,
identity and allows growth for inmates, giving them opportunities and guidance for
life outside of prison.
The artwork itself is also a great feature of the documentary
and there are some really beautiful pieces shown; one with a goanna as its
focus really caught my eye. If I actually had any money, I would love to hang
it on my wall. Hearing the meaning of the art is also great, you see the pride
that the inmates feel, and Art of
Incarceration really does a great job at finding this human side of the men
featured. Men that would probably normally just look like criminals, but here
they are just everyday people, doing their best with what they have. One
ex-inmate, Robby, is a huge success of The Torch program, making and being
commissioned for sculptures and also becoming an employee at The Torch. The
confined men even had their own art exhibition through The Torch at St. Kilda,
Melbourne – The
Director Alex Siddons has done a great job at bringing the
efforts of The Torch to the screen and telling the stories of the Confined 8,
but as I said earlier there plenty of heartbreak, so you may need to keep a
Kleenex handy. Art of Incarceration
is honest, fascinating and shows you what can happen when you give some one
proper guidance and care.
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