Australia’s war on what

Australia’s war on what

The incarceration rate in the U.S. is ridiculous, but it wasn’t always like this.

The 1970s kicked-off the ‘tough on crime’ and ‘war on drugs’ period, which has had such an impact that the U.S. now has the highest prisoner rate in the world (discounting Seychelles), and currently stands at over 4 times the OECD average¹. In fact, the U.S.’s willingness to imprison its people is so out of step with the rest of the world that it now hosts almost a quarter of the entire world’s prisoners².

Yet, the incarceration rate of Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people is more than twice³ the rate of the U.S. … and growing!

The first graph has been doing the rounds for the last couple of years, and shows how the U.S.’s willingness to imprison its population has changed over the last few decades.

The second graph compares the American rate to that of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Australia.

How bad is the crime situation in Australia that has lead to this?





[2]  Roy Walmsley (November 21, 2013). World Prison Population List (tenth edition)International Centre for Prison Studies.

[3] Comparisons across international jurisdictions are more complicated.  Generally the ABS figures for rate of imprisonment is based on all people in jail per 100,000 adults. The US figures in the historical data presented here, however, only include ‘prisoners sentenced for 1 year or more’. The graph provided shows comparable data, based on the same variables. The relevant Australian figures for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are derived using data in Table 10 of ABS’s Prison publication linked below.

U.S. Data for 1925 to1977 from

U.S. Data 1978 to 2014 from –  Corrections Statistical Analysis Tool (CSAT) – Prisoners

Australia Data:

Prisoner publication 2005 to 2015 – please request derived figures. Planning to have datasets available online in future.


4:  Picture used with CC authority, thanks to:

Picture changed to highlight that 1 in 3 people in Australia’s jails are Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander.

Alternative music drowns out the call for change

Alternative music drowns out the call for change

Like many of my generation, I have fabulous memories of Australia Day from my teenage and Uni years.  In fact, I used to claim Australia Day to be my favourite public holiday.

This is in no small part for two reasons:

Since the early 90s, Triple J has been galvanising Australia Day’s place in contemporary culture, providing the youth with strong bonds and fond memories. In fact, Triple J has helped Australia Day seem like the most inclusive day of all: the day in which all it takes to have access to the country’s best musical festival is a radio; and a mobile to have a say.

The day plays perfectly to all Australian clichés: sun, beer, music, mates, and backyard BBQs.

All while turning a blind eye to what the day represents.

For over 20 years, Triple J has been doing the community a disservice. Perhaps unwittingly so, but these positive connotations of the 26th January are distancing an increasingly large section of the community (over 2 million in 2014¹) from recognising the terrible past it represents, and the symbolic weight it still holds for many today.

The devastation of Australia’s Indigenous peoples, which begun with the arrival of the British colonisers on the 26th January 1788, was so severe that roughly 10 times more Indigenous people died by Australian Federation than all Australian casualties in WWI².

Triple J is a wonderful radio station which supports youth and independent music across the community. They support initiatives such as mentoring and unearthing Indigenous artists, as well as the National Indigenous Music Awards. This year the Hottest 100 is also partnering with AIME to “help close the education gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australian students”³.

So, this all begs the question: why do they continue to host their biggest day of the year on a day which commemorates the beginning of a massacre, dispossession, and centuries of legislated racial discrimination which almost destroyed the ‘oldest living cultural history in the world’4?

While it might be difficult to move Australia Day for now, it may help if we stop drowning out the calls for change with the coolest karaoke party ever.

Does the Hottest 100 even need to be on a public holiday?  Is the Hottest 100 Day not enough of a celebration?

Sure, it’d be great to still have it when it’s hot… so how about the third Saturday of January? It even ensures you get an extra day to recover before going back to work!

Let 2016 be the last Triple J Hottest 100 held on the 26th January.

Let 2017’s Hottest 100 be a day we can all celebrate!

#letsmovehottest100day #hottest100



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