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Dubbo Drug Court needed now

Western NSW Community Legal Centre (WNSWCLC) has backed calls for the immediate expansion of the Drug Court to Dubbo following a damning assessment of the NSW Government’s response to First Nations deaths in custody

The Dubbo-based centre contributed to the NSW parliamentary report which concluded the State Government had failed to stem the tide of incarceration and disadvantage, describing it as “nothing short of a tragedy, and a gross injustice for First Nations people and the entire New South Wales community”.

WNSWCLC solicitor Hannah Robinson said that 30 years on from the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody the inquiry revealed that “nothing has changed”.

“We have seen inquiry after inquiry and nothing has changed,” Ms Robinson said. “The NSW Government must act now to show its commitment to our First Nations communities.”

WNSWCLC and its specialist Domestic Violence Unit – Western Women’s Legal Support – gave evidence to the inquiry in October last year. While the centre welcomed the report’s 39 recommendations, Ms Robinson said more action was needed.

As well as establishing the Drug Court in Dubbo the report recommended investment in other rehabilitative and diversionary programs to keep First Nations peoples out of prison. A long-running campaign for a local drug rehabilitation centre finally secured funding late last year.

Other recommendations included lifting the age of criminal responsibility in NSW from 10 to 14, reforms to the Bail Act 2013 (NSW), increased mental health support for prison inmates and greater accountability and oversight in relation to deaths in custody.

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