Hope for a fairer justice system as NSW police must ask about native status

The warrant, which came in on Thursday, does not apply to traffic and transport offenses but otherwise NSW Police say everyone will be questioned ‘regardless of appearance or background’.

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It is hoped that this will improve data and create a fairer justice system.

“With more accurate data, we can make more informed decisions about how to support Indigenous people in the criminal justice system and establish programs to prevent recidivism and reduce incarceration,” said the deputy secretary of the Department of Communities and Justice for Indigenous Outcomes Transformation, Brendan Thomas. .

Mr Thomas, a man from Wiradjuri, is also on the NSW Police Indigenous Strategic Advisory Council, which has advised change as well as consultation with indigenous people in the state.

Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research (BOCSAR) executive director Jackie Fitzgerald said the information they had about Indigenous people’s interaction with the police and justice system had deteriorated over time, and the Data research “can tell us what works and what doesn’t so we can better allocate our resources and efforts”.

“Improving this data for offenders and victims helps us evaluate First Nations programs and identify patterns of success and areas where we are not doing as well as expected,” Fitzgerald added.

“Asking enables us to improve safe custody practices, connect vulnerable people to support services and divert them from the criminal justice system,” said the NSW Police Deputy Commissioner and corporate sponsor for Aboriginal Engagement, Joe Cassar.

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The Indigenous Legal Service runs a custody notification service that police call when an Indigenous person is arrested, but previously there was no need for police to ask or record people’s Indigenous status.

Around three per cent of the population are Indigenous, but that rises to 30 per cent of the prison population in the year to June 30, 2021, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

The proportion is even worse for young people.

Ms Fitzgerald said Indigenous youth made up 40 per cent of youth in custody in May last year.

There has been a reduction in the number of Indigenous children in custody, which Ms Fitzgerald says “allows for cautious optimism that the overrepresentation of Indigenous people in custody can be changed.”

“Unfortunately, despite the improvements, we still have a long way to go,” Ms Fitzgerald said.

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