The State Government has announced the introduction of a new Custody Notification System (CNS) aiming to provide Aboriginal West Australians who are taken into police custody with critical welfare checks and basic legal advice.
CNS is a 24 hours welfare and legal advice hotline set to be rolled out on the first six months of 2019.
Authorities will be required to contact the central number, which leads to a solicitor at the Aboriginal Legal Service in Western Australia.
The solicitor will provide the person in custody legal advice and a welfare check.
This new service is jointly funded by both Federal and State Governments, with Commonwealth allocating $750,000, and WA Government provided $202,000 to ALSWA.
CNS will have an annual cost of $952,000, allowing ALSWA to employ five barristers, two support staff, focusing on Aboriginal staff engagement.
Federal Aboriginal Affairs Minister Nigel Scullion is pleased that WA State Government accepted the funding offer from the Commonwealth.
He is confident that CNS is effective and it will save lives.
“The Coalition Government has been advocating for the CNS because it ensures access to fundamental legal rights, no matter if a person is taken into police custody in a metropolitan, rural or remote location. This includes persons who are not charged with an offence,” The Minister said.
“Since the CNS was implemented in NSW in 2000, no Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander person has died in police custody where the CNS has been contacted.
WA Police Minister Michelle Roberts and Attorney General John Quigley believe this new service will provide Aboriginal people fundamental legal advice and a welfare check as early as possible.
“The Coronial Inquest into the tragic death of Ms Dhu recommended that the State Government give consideration to establishing a State-wide 24 hours per day, seven days per week CNS,” Mr Quigley stated.
“It was also a recommendation from the 1991 Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody.”
“I am pleased to say that the McGowan Labor Government has taken this important recommendation on board and that the CNS is now a step closer to implementation.”
“As with the CNS in New South Wales, the CNS in WA will be mandated by regulations under the Police Act 1892 (WA), which have been drafted and will be tabled in Parliament when the service is ready to begin.”
Police Minister Michelle Roberts added that Police Commissioner Chris Dawson has made significant progress to create better relationships with WA’s Aboriginal community.
“The CNS will ensure that Aboriginal people arrested and taken into police custody receive fundamental legal advice, and that a welfare check is undertaken at the earliest opportunity,” Ms Roberts said.
“Commissioner Dawson has already made great steps in strengthening relationships between the WA Police Force and the Aboriginal community, with the establishment of an Aboriginal Affairs Division.”
“The introduction of a CNS will provide appropriate safeguards for indigenous people in custody and also Police.”
“It is intended that a new regulation to the Police Act 1892 (WA) will be tabled in Parliament in the first half of 2019, soon after the ALSWA confirms that it has its staff recruited and trained.”