WA Considers Introduction of Legal Hotline

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West Australia’s Attorney-General says he is considering a 24-hour on-call legal service for Aboriginal people, as part of changes being looked at to reduce the state’s Indigenous imprisonment rate.

Attorney-General John Quigley says WA has received a funding offer from the Federal government to establish a custody notification service (CNS).

Mr Quigley said if approved the notification service would be outsourced to the Aboriginal Legal Service.

A Federal funding offer for the service was offered last year but was rejected by former police minister Liza Harvey. A scheme introduced in February 2016 which expanded on an existing program allowing Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander people held in prison or lock-ups access to the Aboriginal Visitors Scheme was deemed sufficient at the time.

Mr Quigley said the state was also considering changes aimed to reducing the number of people jailed for defaulting on a fine.

The announcement comes three years after the death in custody of 22-year old Aboriginal woman Ms Dhu, who was in custody over unpaid fines worth less than $4000.

Indigenous groups, including the family of Ms Dhu, have been lobbying the West Australian government to introduce a custody notification service for years.

Ms Dhu’s grandmother Carol Roe last year said she believed the service would have saved her granddaughter’s life.

Establishment of a CNS was one of the recommendations stemming from the 1991 Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody. While a variety of Aboriginal Legal Service hotlines operate in each state and territory, only in NSW and the ACT are police legally required to contact an official custody notification service.