The "skyrocketing" levels of Aboriginal women behind bars is a national crisis being overlooked by all levels of Australian government, according to a new report.
The imprisonment rate of indigenous women has risen nearly 250 per cent since the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody, research by the Human Rights Law Centre and Change the Record reveals.
Aboriginal women make up about 34 per cent of the female prison population but only two per cent of Australia's adult female population.
Former prisoner turned advocate Vickie Roach spent many years in and out of the courts, children's homes and jails while struggling with addiction and abusive partners.
She says punitive approaches affect women and their children, with 80 per cent of female Aboriginal inmates also mothers.
It can have devastating consequences when kids are taken into child protection. Stable housing is lost and employment denied.
"You need to respect women's dignity but in my experience, so often the criminal justice system just takes it away," Ms Roach said.
"What is needed are approaches that deal with drugs, family violence, housing, loss of self-esteem, disconnection from country and culture."
The report calls for system-wide change and outlines 18 recommendations to redress "racialised and gendered justice system outcomes".
Indigenous women need access to specialist, holistic and culturally safe services that address the root causes of incarceration, Change the Record Coalition Co-Chair Antoinette Braybrook says.
"Experiences of family violence contribute directly and indirectly to women's offending," she said.
The report calls for governments to move away from 'tough on crime' approaches and to pivot towards community-led, evidence-based solutions focused on prevention and diversion.
HRLC legal advocacy director Adrianne Walters said indigenous women are also being denied bail and rehabilitative alternatives, particularly in regional and remote locations.
"Governments can act now to remove laws that disproportionately and unfairly criminalise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women, like fine default imprisonment laws in WA and paperless arrest laws in the NT," she said.