• Debbie Kilroy (left) from Sisters Inside joins renowned international civil rights activist Angela Davis on stage at a conference in Brisbane recently. (Supplied)Source: Supplied
The campaign helping people avoid imprisonment for unpaid fines continues its success, with one campaign coordinator saying fines should be income assessed.
By
Brooke Fryer

Source:
NITV News
15 Jan 2019 - 6:51 PM  UPDATED 15 Jan 2019 - 8:44 PM

The FreeThePeople campaign continues to steadily climb towards the organiser's updated goal of $325,000.

Sisters Inside's CEO, Debbie Kilroy, started the GoFundMe page after joining a four year old campaign started by Gerry Georgatos, the national coordinator for the National Child Sexual Abuse Trauma Recovery Project.  

The campaign launched a GoFundMe page last Monday and in just two days reached its goal of $99,000. On the fifth day $232,000 had been raised.

Eight days on, the total funds raised sit at just over $280,000.

All the money will help to prevent people going to prison for unpaid fines and to get those already in prison for unpaid fines out.  

The first person the initiative helped release was a 22-year-old homeless woman. The campaign also helped provide her with a stable home for the next 12 months. 

Mr Georgatos told NITV News the campaign has been well-supported both nationally and internationally. 

"The campaign has warmed myself and Debbie Kilroy," he said. "The response from the Australian community.... and the huge international interest is unique, the mass movement of people wanting to help sisters and brothers being incarcerated for unpaid fines or preventing them for being incarcerated for unpaid fines," 

"We've reached our target again and again, [but] our real target isn't about how much money we've raised. Our real target is helping as many people along the way." 

Mr Georgatos said the campaign is also about pressuring for an income bracketed fine system, where the price of the fine is dependant on what an individual is earning. 

"The ultimate aim is equality. The ultimate aim is fairness from the start," he said. 

"Fines should be in accordance to income, the gross income, because if someone is on a Centrelink payment and they are hit with... a $1000 fine... that is much more than their weekly income.

"So what's someone supposed to do? Not pay their rental or housing rental? Not put food on the table?" 

Mr Georgatos said he believes WA can be the first state to adopt such changes and set the standard for the rest of the country.

"Governments should want to be morally conscious, and what we should have is WA go from being the back water... to becoming the leader," he said. 

Mr Georgatos said till a year ago fifty per cent of people imprisoned for unpaid fines were Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders.

"Any person incarcerated for unpaid fines or at risk of is one too many," he said.

Mr Georgatos said that ninety per cent of people who were defaulters were living in hardship, living off minimum wage or living below the poverty line. 

Figures by the WA department of corrective services reported that there were only two men and two woman in prison for unpaid fines, while The Guardian reported organisers of the campaign were told around 30 women in Perth's prisons were inside due to unpaid fines

'Keeping women out of prison': campaign surges past the $230,000 mark
A young mum of three and domestic violence victim living in fear of being arrested over unpaid fines has had her warrant paid out, with many other women in a similar predicament identified by campaign organisers.
Stop sending people to jail for unpaid fines, says Law Reform Commission
The Australian Law Reform Commission has recommended that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people work off their fines, rather than do time for them.