A petition including over 34 thousand signatures has been reinvigorated, calling for the Australian Government to continue funding of a 24-hour legal advice and RU OK phone line for Aboriginal people.
According to supporters of the Custody Notification Service (CNS), it is a vital resource for Aboriginal communities and has prevented Aboriginal deaths in police cell custody since it began in NSW and ACT in 2000. It also received Goverment funding in 2007.
Funding for the service is expected to be stopped at the end of the month and supporters believe it will cut vital information and assistance for thousands of Aboriginal people in need of help.
The Acting CEO of Aboriginal Legal Services, Kane Ellis, says the line receives over 300 calls a week.
He says, “It gives vulnerable Aboriginal men, women and children access to an experienced lawyer for timely legal advice which is crucial given the already shamefully high rates of Aboriginal over-representation in the criminal justice system. No other service provider could run this essential phone line as cheaply and effectively as we do.”
The petition will be passed on to the Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Nigel Scullion, and supporters hope the Government will reassess its decision to cease funding for the service.
Ellis says “No other service provider could run this essential phone line as cheaply and effectively as we do. The ALS is urgently calling on the Australian government to fund this essential Service.”