Custody Notification Service a step closer to implementation in WA

Release Date: 
23 November 2018
Media release

Joint Media Release

Senator the Hon. Nigel Scullion - Commonwealth Minister for Indigenous Affairs
Hon. John Quigley MLA - WA Attorney General 
Hon. Michelle Roberts MLA - Minister for Police

  • Custody Notification Service (CNS) to be introduced in WA
  • 24-hour welfare and legal advice phone line for Aboriginal people taken into police custody

 A Custody Notification Service (CNS) provides a critical welfare check and fundamental legal advice to all Aboriginal people taken into police custody is set to be operational in the first half of 2019.

Police will be required to call a central number which diverts to the phone of a rostered Aboriginal Legal Service of WA (ALSWA) solicitor, who will then undertake a welfare check and provide legal advice to the person in custody.

The CNS will cost $952,000 per year, with the Commonwealth Government contributing $750,000 and the State $202,000 for the ALSWA to employ five lawyers and two support staff, with a focus on engaging Aboriginal staff to operate the service.

Comments attributed to Attorney General John Quigley:

“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.

“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 gazetted when the service is ready to begin.

“The ALSWA, who will be the service provider, will now begin to recruit and train lawyers and support staff to operate this important service.”

Comments attributed to Federal Indigenous Affairs Minister Nigel Scullion:

“I am pleased that the McGowan Government has accepted the Commonwealth’s offer to help fund this important service, which will operate around the clock, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

“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.

“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.

“This goes to show that the CNS works, that it is effective and saves lives.”

Comments attributed to Police Minister Michelle Roberts:

“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.

“The CNS is not only an essential safeguard for indigenous people in custody, it will also provide a range of benefits for WA Police, including a saving of police resources where Aboriginal persons are held in custody for shorter periods of time.

“I thank the WA Police Force and Commissioner Chris Dawson for their support on the introduction of a CNS.

“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.”