Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander (First Nations) people are recognised as the oldest continuous cultures on earth (Commonwealth of Australia 2017). First Nations people have a holistic concept of health and wellbeing, which is recognised and supported in Government policies and services (Department of Health 2021). 

It is important to understand how the past shapes the lives of First Nations Australians today: they have a long history of trauma, cultural dispossession, and forced displacement and assimilation, which affects their physical, mental and social wellbeing.

First Nations people make up a small proportion (3.8%) of the Australian population. Yet they are over-represented in Australia’s prison system, making up 32% of the total prison population, and are incarcerated at much higher rates than non-Indigenous Australians (ABS 2023a, ABS 2023b).

In addition to complex health and wellbeing needs, First Nations people in prison may also require access to culturally safe health care services.

The main data source for this report was the 2022 National Prisoner Health Data Collection (NPHDC), with findings supplemented by data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS). The NPHDC was conducted over a 2-week period, in all states and territories, except Victoria, providing a snapshot of the health and wellbeing of people in Australia’s prisons.