Investing to prevent deaths in police custody in the NT

Release Date: 
19 November 2018
Media release
  • Custody Notification Service (CNS) will provide wellbeing support and legal assistance to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples taken into police custody in the NT.
  • Coalition Government to provide $2.25 million over three years, subject to the NT Government’s guarantee that the service will extend to those not charged with an offence.
  • The CNS will be a legislated safeguard to ensure all necessary actions are taken to prevent needless deaths in custody.

The Coalition Government is today investing $2.25 million to support the introduction of a legislated Custody Notification Service (CNS) in the Northern Territory.

Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Nigel Scullion said that the CNS was an important step forward in addressing preventable Indigenous deaths in police custody, including for those who have not been charged with an offence.

"I am extremely pleased that North Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency (NAAJA) has accepted my offer of initial funding to operate the CNS in NT,as part of my 2016 offer to all jurisdictions to fund the introduction of a CNS for three years," Minister Scullion said.

This offer is reliant on states and territories introducing legislation to ensure use of the service is mandatory, and agreeing to its ongoing funding.

With a CNS in place, police are required to notify the 24 hour, 7 days per week service when an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander person is taken into custody. The CNS then initiates immediate, culturally-appropriate, holistic wellbeing support and referral to legal assistance as required.

The Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody recommended a mandatory, legislated CNS in all jurisdictions as a practical measure to reduce deaths and the overwhelming body of evidence from New South Wales and the ACT – the only jurisdictions to have implemented a legislated CNS – supports this.

"While states and territories are responsible for their criminal justice systems, this issue requires governments to work together for better outcomes. A legislated, mandatory system means that police must contact the CNS the moment an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander person enters their care.

"I look forward to receiving the NT Government’s guarantee that the CNS will apply to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander persons in police custody and the CNS legislation is fast tracked so NAAJA and NT police can start the vital service with confidence it has the force of legislation.

"I will continue to work closely with other states and territories to ensure that every Australian jurisdiction has an effective CNS in place," Minister Scullion said today