WA introduces Custody Notification Service for Indigenous people

Stock image.
Stock image.

FROM midnight tonight, it will be mandatory for WA Police to call a Custody Notification Service (CNS) whenever an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander person is taken into custody.

The introduction of an independent notification service resulted from the inquest into the death of Ms Dhu at South Hedland Police Station five years ago.

The CNS will provide a 24-hour welfare and legal advice hotline to Indigenous people when they are arrested or detained in WA.

Police Minister Michelle Roberts said this is a well overdue reform and will provide appropriate safeguards for both Aboriginal people and police.

“It’s a tragedy that it has taken so long for Western Australia to implement such an important measure, but I am proud the McGowan Government has acted, when the former Liberal National Government would not,” Ms Roberts said.

The CNS central number will divert to the phone of a rostered Western Australia Aboriginal Legal Service solicitor, who will then undertake a welfare check and provide legal advice to the person in custody.

Aboriginal Affairs Minister Ben Wyatt said the CNS will reduce the unnecessary incarceration of Indigenous people around the state.

“Calls for a CNS go all the way back to the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody,” Mr Wyatt said.

“I commend the Aboriginal Legal Service for its commitment to delivering this important service.”

The service will operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week state-wide and will be staffed by the Aboriginal Legal Service of WA.

Attorney General John Quigley said Ms Dhu shouldn’t have been in custody and shouldn’t have died.

“Had there been a custody notification service in place, I believe that her tragic death in custody would have been avoided,” Mr Quigley said.

The CNS has been stuck in trial phase since July this year.