There are renewed, urgent calls for the Custody Notification Service (CNS) to be mandatory in all states and territories.
The push coincides with the Adelaide inquest into the death of Wiradjuri man Wayne Morrison, and a Guardian investigation tracking the 147 Indigenous deaths in custody over the last decade.
The CNS is a hotline service that connects Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who have been detained in police custody with an Indigenous legal service.
This allows for early legal advice, and is also an opportunity to check in on the wellbeing of the person who is in custody.
New South Wales is currently the only jurisdiction where police have an obligation to call the CNS when an Indigenous person is taken into custody. It was set up in 2000.
But the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Service (NATSILS) says calls to the CNS should be mandatory all across the country whenever an Indigenous person is taken into custody.
This was a key recommendations from the 1991 Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody.
“These are our Elders, our mothers, fathers, children, cousins, uncles and aunties, taken from us too soon,” co-chair of NATSILS Cheryl Axleby said in a statement.
“Too many of these deaths were preventable. With the flick of a pen, governments could easily save lives with this simple solution: fund and legislate mandatory custody notification services in every state and territory.”
In ACT and Victoria the CNS is also in place, but there are no legislative obligations within those jurisdictions for police to call.
South Australia has an administrative arrangement where police notify the Aboriginal Legal Rights Movement, Queensland has a similar scheme, and Tasmania is considering implementing the CNS with no decision made.
Earlier this year, the Western Australia government announced its plan to implement the CNS, two years after a coroner made the recommendations to implement the hotline during an inquest into Ms Dhu’s death.
In October 2016, Minister Scullion offered three-year funding to the states and territories to introduce the CNS.
“Custody Notification Services run by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services saves lives," Ms Axelby said.
"We know it works. Governments must develop and fund Custody Notification Services in partnership with us before any more grief, pain and loss is inflicted on our communities."
The Human Rights Law Centre has also supported the call for a national CNS, saying it is long overdue.
"Twenty-seven years later we’re still faced with politicians dragging their feet while people continue to die,” Senior Lawyer Shahleena Musk said in a statement.