When HRH Stan Grant gets it wrong

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Stan Grant (pic stolen from The Australian, cos he is one).

I love Stan Grant. There is no other way of saying that. He says shit that everyone needs to hear. Which is why I tuned in to listen to his interview on ABC Conversations yesterday.

And I was surprised to hear him say this;

“The number of aboriginal graduates is almost four times higher than the number of aboriginal people in prison. That means that for a young aboriginal kid growing up today they are four times more likely to graduate from university than to go to prison.”                   – (Conversations, ABC local radio, 30 Nov 2016 at 33min)

Contrast this with Bill Shorten’s comment earlier this year that young indigenous men are more likely to go to prison than university.

So who is right? Are young indigenous people more likely to end up in prison than university? Or are they four times more likely to graduate university than go to jail?

Grant said that the number of indigenous graduates has risen steeply in the last couple of decades to 30 000. This is four times the number of indigenous people in prison. It does not, however, logically follow that an indigenous person is four times more likely to go to university than prison.  You’re a prisoner for a couple of years (usually) but a graduate for life. I think Grant would need to compare the total number of indigenous Australians who have ever been to prison against the total number of indigenous graduates.

And, as stated in the link above, there’s actually no way of knowing that figure. We can only estimate how many Australians have ever been to prison, based on how many have been imprisoned in the last five years (the only statistics we have on it).

Stan Grant is completely right in his message though – indigenous Australians suffer ‘soft racism’ – the racism of low expectations. His statement aims to fight that myth. However, I don’t think drawing attention away from the racist criminalisation and imprisonment of Aboriginal people is the answer. Australia needs to recognise the desperate caricatures of Aboriginal people for what they are – bog standard bullshit. Aboriginal Australians are as diverse as everyone else, and yes, of course, the middle class is flourishing. But there’s still a huge problem with disproportionate imprisonment. That’s not going away.

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