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Close the gap on incarceration rate: Bowen

AAP logoAAP 5/08/2016 Belinda Merhab

Senior Labor figure Chris Bowen has called for a national target to close the gap when it comes to indigenous incarceration rates.

Young indigenous men are more likely to go to jail than university, Mr Bowen told a Western Sydney University alumni dinner on Friday night.

Following revelations about abuse at the Northern Territory's Don Dale juvenile detention centre, it was time to remove the gap in indigenous and non-indigenous incarceration rates by 2040, he said.

"We can't put the over-representation of indigenous citizens in prison in the too-hard basket any longer," he said.

Mr Bowen also warned a plebiscite on same-sex marriage could distract from a referendum on constitutional recognition.

Society has a certain capacity to deal with a certain number of issues at any given time, he said.

"I for one would hate to see our national political bandwidth exhausted and progress of these two important issues denied because of political decisions about process."

He said it was almost too late to hold the indigenous referendum in May, to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the 1967 referendum relating to indigenous people.

"That is a pity. And a potential missed opportunity for the nation."

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