Indigenous people in Australia are the most incarcerated population in the world, making up
around 30% of the total prison population of Australia, but only 3% of the total population.
Around half of all incarcerated children aged 10-17 are indigenous. This coincides with horrific
inequality, caused by intergenerational poverty, institutional racism and state harassment – all
products of the genocide Australian capitalism was built on.
The Australian Federal Police (AFP) target and brutalize indigenous people. Over 500
Aboriginal people have died in custody since the 1991 Royal Commission, and we can only
imagine how many before. And yet, none of the killer cops have ever been charged with their
murders, no matter the blatant evidence produced. Zachary Rolfe who murdered 19 year-old
Kumanjayi Walker, claimed being a cop in Alice Springs was great because “we just get to do
cowboy shit with no rules”.
Why are the police so fucked up?
The police as an arm of the state exist to “protect against disorder”, which really means to
protect the private property and profit making of the ruling class of capitalist society. This is
achieved by chastising, intimidating, and incarcerating the people who won’t – or can’t – meet up
to the status quo. Indigenous people cop the brunt of this. The police hound indigenous people
for seemingly just existing, brutalized for suffering from trauma and poverty, and communities
over policed for petty crimes.
All the while the billionaire corporations who steal land for coal mines, housing investors who
keep over 1 million properties empty with over 100,000 homeless in Australia, the government
who turn back or torture refugees fleeing war and genocide, or even the bosses who commit
wage theft of their employees, are left untouched by the “justice system”. These crimes against
humanity far outweigh any petty crime the majority of the incarcerated have committed.
This brutality isn’t a flaw in the institution, but its purpose; the police are the thugs of the state,
and so carry out whatever benefits those at the top. Police racism is not an aberration that can
be done away with training or new laws; it is a direct reflection of the racism generated by and
required by a class-divided, profit-driven, deeply unequal political and economic system.
Australian capitalism, which is built on genocide and oppression – and the police, as the most
direct defenders of this system, are imbued with its worst bigotries.
This is why the brutality of the police doesn’t stop at indigenous Australians. Muslim and African
communities in particular are often at the brutal receiving end of police harrassment. The police
use their power against anyone who stands against ‘order’ and the “status quo”. This includes
their historical role as strikebreakers, brutalizing workers who dare to stand up for better pay
and conditions. Protesters and activists are also targeted for opposing ‘order’. Activists in
‘Blockade Australia’ are facing harsh penalties or even imprisonment for demanding climate
action and an end to fossil fuels. This is the function of the police, and so no reform can fix this
So what do we do?
The2020 Black Lives Matter movement championed the demand to defund the police. Every
left-wing person should take this up. Imagine what good could be done if the billions of dollars
funneled into the AFP were used for healthcare, education, housing and welfare in
But we can’t stop there. The police should be abolished. The same police who kill indigenous
Australians are the same who brutalize strikers and protesters, harass the homeless, and are
the same as those that will be arresting women for seeking abortions in the US. These injustices
will occur so long as the police exist.
No society built on exploitation and oppression could ever be equal. That’s why every country
needs police, and why the police have a violent history in every country. To really create a world
without police and prisons, capitalism would need to be abolished, along with racism and every
other oppression it creates