The Aboriginal Legal Service of WA Ltd welcomes the FPINE Amendment Bill (2019) which was passed by WA’s Legislative Council last night. ALSWA said that the amendments would play a significant role in reducing the fracturing of Aboriginal families and even loss of life.
“We have lobbied for change in this area for many years, so this news is greatly welcomed. You only need to remember the tragic 2014 death of Ms. Dhu, who was imprisoned for just over $3000 in unpaid fines to realise how life-changing this actually is. Unpaid fines should not be a death sentence” said ALSWA CEO Dennis Eggington.
Recommendations from the State Coroner’s inquest into Ms Dhu’s death in 2016 included the requirement for legislative reform of fines enforcement; something that ALSWA has strongly advocated for. ALSWA has also played a vital role through its ongoing advocacy with clients and involvement in Social Reinvestment WA’s active campaign for reform.
“There is no doubt that jailing people for unpaid fines disproportionately affected Aboriginal people in WA. It had a devastating and fracturing effect on children, families and communities and exacerbated the overrepresentation of Aboriginal people, particularly women in the justice system by criminalising the effects of racism, poverty and disadvantage” said Mr. Eggington.
ALSWA says that the practice also never made financial sense. “The State imprisons a person at an average daily cost of $770, yet a day in prison for fine enforcement would only wipe out $250” said Mr. Eggington.
“I am sure that many people will be breathing a huge sigh relief given that all existing warrants of commitment for unpaid fines will be cancelled and those in WA’s prison for unpaid fines will be released. It will now be far more effective for people who are unable to pay their fines to be given practical alternatives to earn off their fines or be given protections if they can demonstrate genuine hardship. So yes, it is a good news day now that the power of arrest for unpaid fines lies only in the hands of a Magistrate or a Judge” said Mr. Eggington.
MEDIA ENQUIRIES TO JODI HOFFMANN ALSWA MEDIA OFFICER 0428 948 610