Member for Summer Hill, Jo Haylen, has called on the Abbott and Baird governments to stop squabbling over funding arrangements for the Custody Notification Service (CNS) and provide certainty to the support line for indigenous people in police custody.
The CNS was a key recommendation of the 1991 Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody and since its implementation 15 years ago, there have been no Aboriginal deaths in custody in NSW and the ACT.
The Abbott Government originally cut funding for the line and then in a last minute reversal, committed half the money required to keep the line afloat on the day funding was due to expire. The Baird Government has refused to commit the remaining half, choosing to pick a funding fight with the Commonwealth rather than provide certainty for the service.
“Governments must fund services that work. The CNS works,” Haylen said.
“Mr Abbott once referred to himself as the Prime Minister for Indigenous Affairs, yet his Government and their Liberal counterparts in NSW are playing games with a service that is proven to save Aboriginal lives,” Haylen said.
“Nobody deserves to die in a police cell, not because of a short-sighted economic decision aimed to shore up the bottom line and certainly not because of a fight between the Commonwealth and the states,” Haylen said.
Haylen tabled a petition in the NSW Parliament last month supporting Australians for Native Title and Reconciliation’s (ANTaR’s) Change the Record Campaign, seeking to stem Australia’s shockingly high indigenous incarceration rates.
Haylen also called on the NSW Attorney General, Gabrielle Upton, to condemn Abbott’s cuts to community legal centres, which will debilitate front-line legal services, including the CNS.
“The Federal Government is cutting money where it hurts and their friends in the Baird Government are doing nothing about it – these cuts will make it harder for women experiencing domestic violence; they will make it harder for kids looking for legal advice; and I fear they will now lead to deaths in custody,” Haylen said.