A Noongar father of seven is facing five days at Hakea Prison, located in Perth’s southern suburbs, after he was randomly stopped and checked by officers on a train on Friday.
Forty-one-year-old Rocky Loo suffers from extreme anxiety and needs to take daily medication, his former partner and mother to his children Marianne Mackay told NITV News she found out about Mr Loo’s incarceration after receiving a call from Hakea prison.
“I said 'nope I’m ringing Gerry' [Georgatos] because the McGowan government made a commitment not to lock anyone up for fines anymore,” Ms Mackay said.
“I don’t know if this is because he’s a black man that they’re [police] constantly targeting him,” she said.
Ms Mackay, a prominent Perth activist, said Mr Loo is a doting father whose life is about his seven children who are aged from six months to 19 years old.
“It’s gonna affect us financially as well as emotionally and physically,” Ms Mackay said.
“I have to be at the Perth’s children’s hospital on Tuesday because my son was born breech caesarean, so his hip bone has to be pushed back up into place while he’s a baby… so now I have to organise everything to make sure the other kids get to school, I have a car registration due this week as well,” she said.
Ms Mackay said Mr Loo had applied for a work order to pay off his fines and wasn’t aware that he had been approved for the order. Mr Loo's failure to turn up to his work order led to the warrant for Mr Loo’s arrest.
In Western Australia under the Fines, Penalties and Infringement Notices Enforcement Act 1994 (WA), if a person defaults on a payment arrangement, an arrest warrant is issued and they are detained at a rate of $250 per day until the fine is 'paid off'.
Mr Loo is expected to spend five days in Hakea as a means of ‘cutting’ his fine valued at $3599.
In September, the WA Attorney General, John Quigley introduced the fine default reforms package to state parliament, however it had not passed by the end of the year.
On the first sitting day of Parliament for 2020, the state government announced harsher penalties for drivers caught on their phones as of July 1.
Gerry Georgatos and Megan Krakouer from the National Suicide Prevention and Trauma Recovery Project (NSPTSP) said the continued wait for the reforms to pass parliament is taking a massive toll on Western Australian Aboriginal families.
“The problem here is that this is a working father of seven children, most of them toddlers, and they need him to earn his quid to give them a reasonable quality of life,” Gerry Georgatos Coordinator of the National Suicide Prevention and Trauma Recovery Project (NSPTSP) told NITV News.
“Why would you lock up a father? Why would the government not actually expedite and do the sense of urgency with these amendments? We’ve got fathers, and mothers, and the poor all being locked up for what?” Mr Georgatos said.
Director of NSPTSP Megan Krakouer told NITV News said the incarceration of Aboriginal people for unpaid fines is also affecting the relationship between the WA Police Force and the Aboriginal community and pleaded with the government to work faster at passing the amendments.
“This is an indictment of the West Australian government, they keep making all these promises that this will get over the line but it hasn’t gotten over the line. Time is not of the essence.,” Ms Krakouer said.
“We’re dealing with a poverty narrative and the poverty narrative is having severe consequences in our community,” she said.
NITV News has reached out to the WA Government for comment.