The Morrison Government is playing a key role in preventing Indigenous deaths in custody by providing $2.1 million over three years to establish a formal custody notification service (CNS) in Victoria.
Minister for Indigenous Australians, the Hon Ken Wyatt AM, MP, said custody notification services are a critical step in ensuring culturally appropriate care is provided to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people detained by police.
“Every case is one too many, and it underlines how important it is that governments across Australia work together to achieve better outcomes for Indigenous Australians,” Minister Wyatt said.
“Mandatory calls to a CNS ensure all necessary actions are taken to safeguard Indigenous people in a culturally safe way and importantly constitutes part of a holistic welfare check.
“I thank the Victorian Government on taking the significant step to legislate this critical, life-saving service and the additional protections that it brings.
“This funding will enable a dedicated team to provide health and welfare support and basic legal advice for Indigenous Australians for the first three years of its operation.”
Minister Wyatt said custody notification services complemented broader work on tackling the drivers of incarceration through the Closing the Gap framework.
“It is no secret that Indigenous people are appallingly over-represented in Australian prisons – and we are absolutely committed to bringing these rates down, the inclusion of Justice Targets in the refreshed Closing the Gap National Agreement demonstrates the Morrison Government’s determination to drive down incarceration rates” Minister Wyatt said.
“While custody notifications are a critical step in preventing deaths, our end goal is to bring down the numbers of Indigenous people in custody to begin with.
“By working in genuine partnership with State and Territory Governments, as well as Coalition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peak Organisations, ensures that we have a wholistic approach to addressing both the contributing factors of incarceration and health and wellbeing of those in custody.
“It is critical that we tackle the drivers of incarceration – and by working together across governments and with communities improve access to education and employment and reduce family violence, I am confident we can make a difference.”
The Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service (VALS), which already provides an informal version of the CNS, will deliver the expanded service.
This commitment builds on the other custody notification services already in operation around the country.
As well as establishing the CNS in the Northern Territory and Western Australia, the Morrison Government is continuing funding to the CNS in New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory. This is a total investment of $3.4 million in these important front-line services next financial year.
“I renew calls for Queensland, South Australia and Tasmania to work with the Morrison Government to introduce the CNS in their jurisdictions – it is essential that across Australia we have a consistent and joint approach to addressing deaths in custody,” Minister Wyatt said.