The Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Nigel Scullion, has delivered on his promise to provide the NSW/ACT Aboriginal Legal Service with $1.8 million to support the Custody Notification Service (CNS) through until 30 June 2019.
The Australian Government will provide the legal service with an additional $1.6 million from 1 July 2016 to support the CNS. The Government provided the service with interim funding of $263,000 in December 2015 to ensure the CNS continued to operate through until 30 June this year.
“I have agreed to provide this funding to deliver certainty for this critical service. I am not prepared to sit back and let First Australians suffer because of the political stubbornness displayed by the NSW Attorney-General, Gabrielle Upton,” Minister Scullion said.
“It beggars belief Ms Upton has not yet even met with the NSW/ACT Aboriginal Legal Service to discuss Indigenous justice issues despite state and territory governments having responsibility for the criminal justice system.
“All states and territories have arrangements in place to notify an Aboriginal legal service when an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander person is taken into custody. However, in the case of NSW, this is specifically mandated under its own statute books – a situation that makes the NSW Government’s position all the more outrageous.”
Minister Scullion said if the NSW Government did not have a change of heart and agree to fund the CNS, he would explore all avenues to effectively take the $1.8 million back by redirecting existing Commonwealth funding allocated to NSW to cover the cost of the CNS.
“It is a sad state of affairs that the Australian Government has to hold the NSW Government to account for its obligations to support this service,” Minister Scullion said.
Minister Scullion said the $1.8 million was in addition to the more than $85 million being provided by the Commonwealth to the Aboriginal Legal Service to 30 June 2020 to deliver Indigenous legal assistance in NSW and ACT.
“Through the Indigenous Advancement Strategy, the Commonwealth is also investing around $250 million for safety and wellbeing activities in 2015-16, including activities designed to reduce Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people’s contact with the criminal justice system.”