"In January, an unnamed incarcerated Aboriginal woman on remand at the
Alexander Maconochie Centre in the ACT was the victim of an alleged strip
search undertaken by four guards in full riot gear in full view of male
detainees. The woman is a survivor of previous sexual assault and also has a
serious heart condition.
Footage of the incident has been suppressed by the courts.
This case, along with many others, has sparked grave concern among health care
professionals who work with Aboriginal women detainees. Some women subjected to
strip searches have been as young as 15 years old.
Aboriginal women’s bodies are considered a sacred part of women’s business in
Aboriginal lore and culture. Exposing sensitive parts of an Aboriginal woman’s
body in front of men results in additional shame and guilt, as they are not
able to uphold sacred values of their culture.
It is clear the justice system is failing to address the discrimination of
Aboriginal women. At almost every stage of the criminal process, there are
countless issues with police relations with Aboriginal women, including
* racial profiling by police
* excessive use of force and brutality during arrests
* human rights violations of Aboriginal women more generally.
While there are international legal instruments Australia endorses (like the
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the UN Declaration on
the Rights of Indigenous Peoples), the government still makes little to no
effort to uphold the rights of Aboriginal women in prison when it comes to
self-determination and freedom from discrimination.
Ultimately, the system as it stands is operating in a culturally unsafe way."
*** Xanni ***
Chief Scientist, Xanadu
Partner, Glass Wings
Manager, Serious Cybernetics