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Sisters Inside, which has raised funds to pay off court fines of Aboriginal women, says law reform has been ‘pushed back’.
By
Rangi Hirini

Source:
NITV News
27 Jun 2019 - 2:37 PM  UPDATED 27 Jun 2019 - 3:20 PM

Anti-jail campaigners have expressed frustration the WA government has missed its own intended time-frame to introduce legislation which they say will reduce the number of Indigenous people imprisoned over unpaid court fines.

The WA government has repeatedly promised to repeal penalty enforcement laws following the death in custody of Yamatji woman Ms Dhu, who was jailed for unpaid fines, in 2014.

The attorney-general's office previously stated an "intention" to introduce the amendments to parliament before July.

A spokesperson for the attorney general told NITV News: “Consultation on the bill is currently underway with key stakeholders and it will be introduced into the parliament in September."

It says a “comprehensive package of amendments” have been designed to ensure that people who cannot afford to pay their fines are given extra time or do unpaid community work.

That pace has been criticised by the organisation behind a fundraising campaign which raised more than $400,000 this year to pay off the unpaid court fines of Aboriginal women.

“We’re in a situation now where this bill will be pushed back for a few more months, that’s another Aboriginal person who could die in custody," said Sisters Inside chief executive Debbie Kilroy.

“What it means is that we’re actually gonna see more Aboriginal women and Aboriginal men locked up for not being able to pay fines because warrants will be issued and they will be placed in prisons and they will be at risk of dying.” 

Gerry Georgatos, coordinator of the National Critical Response Trauma Recovery Project, said that slow progress on the issue was “exasperating”.

“It’s been ongoing for two-and-a-half years,” he said.

“It's one delay after another. It has not come as a surprise to me that the [attorney-general’s] office has put this on hold.”

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