• Greg Oliver, National Congress of Australia's First Peoples, has called on the Indigenous Affairs Minister to intervene. (Aboriginal Legal Service)Source: Aboriginal Legal Service
Gary Oliver, CEO of Aboriginal Legal Services says ALS was not notified that Ms Maher had been taken into custody through their Custody Notification Service and believes if it was used, she would have still been alive today.
Laura Morelli

The Point
17 Aug 2016 - 2:42 PM  UPDATED 17 Aug 2016 - 4:53 PM

Custody Notification Service (CNS) = A 24/7 legal advice and RU OK phone line that NSW police use to notify the ALS when they take an Aboriginal person into custody.

NITV: Why do you think there was a failing in notifying the Aboriginal Legal Service through the Custody Notification Service in the case of Ms Maher?

GO: At this stage we are not able to ascertain what exactly happened, but we know that there were two failings at the time. The police failed to notify the CNS and the also failed to notify the ALS when it was discovered that Ms Maher was in fact deceased.

NITV: Had the CNS been used in this case, would Ms Maher still be alive today?

GO: I think that there is a high probability she would be. A first call through the CNS would have led to questions about her and how she is, to her to see how she is, and to her family. This was we could have found out what she needed and if she needed medical help. In the past we have called ambulances for people in custody.

NITV: There hasn’t been a death in custody in NSW since the year 2000, why is this?

GO: The CNS has been successfully used since 2000. It in fact meets national standards, so it’s a big reason we have had any deaths in custody in 16 years. Its really a large failing of procedure.

 NITV: Is the use of the CNS the main reason why there hasn’t been a DIC or are there other factors at play?

GO: More factors are involved than just the Custody Notification Service. Its been 25 years since the Royal Commission Into Aboriginal Deaths In Custody, and in that report the regulations that come with that say that the ALS needs to be notified through and the CNS used. So if regulations aren’t being followed it can fail people, and in this case it appears that the failure of the regulations cost a 36 year old woman her life.

Q5: What are you hoping or expecting to see from the Coronial Inquiry into Ms Mahers death?

GO: We have notified the coroner and formally written and submitted what we want to find out about the failings in this case. Technically we've still not been formally notified of the death formally. I've also written to Commissioner Scipione, to tell him about the lack of notification on Ms Maher's death. I do hope that the inquiry shows the shortfalls in procedure and shows where more training for police is needed so that they can better use the CNS line. Can I also say that I'm really hoping that we get answers for the family and for the community that Rebecca comes from.

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