• An Australian flag is seen behind razor wire at Bandyup Womens Prison in Perth. (Getty Images)
The women feared imprisonment because Western Australia jails people for unpaid fines.
By
Rangi Hirini, Ella Archibald-Binge

Source:
NITV News
17 Apr 2019 - 3:45 PM  UPDATED 17 Apr 2019 - 3:45 PM

A fundraising campaign which began four months ago prevented 130 Aboriginal women from being imprisoned for unpaid fines and freed 11 others.

The campaign launched in January and within 48-hours achieved its goal of raising $99,000.

Since then it has raised more than $390,000.

Organisers say an “unjust” law in Western Australia is having a crippling impact on poor families and that it disproportionately affects Indigenous people.

Sisters Inside chief executive, Debbie Kilroy, who started the fundraiser, said the campaign would continue until the law was changed.

“I know what’s it’s like to be prison,” she told NITV.

“It’s actually horrific when the government knows that Aboriginal women - Aboriginal mothers - are going into prison.”

While visiting Perth this week Ms Kilroy met some of the women who were freed from jail or feared imprisonment.

“Aboriginal women are dying in custody, and there a high risk that another woman may die in custody and that’s what I’m most concerned about,” she said.

A spokesperson for the WA attorney general, John Quigley, told NITV that legislation to change the law would be put before parliament by the middle of the year.

NITV understands that under the legislation being drafted, arrest warrants would only be issued once all other avenues have been exhausted, and even then the person will have a court hearing.

Ms Kilroy said that would "absolutely” be a step in the right direction from the WA Government, who made an election promise to repeal the laws.

She also said that while her fundraising campaign put a spotlight on the issue, it's ultimately a victory for WA’s Indigenous community.

“Aboriginal people over there have been fighting for this for years and years,” Ms Kilroy said.

“I didn’t do this – Aboriginal people did this.”

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