The State Government has implemented new measures to reduce the potential for self-harm or suicide among Aboriginal people in custody by expanding support services for detainees.
The changes, which take effect today, include the 24 hours a day, seven days a week management of the program's free call 1800 number by the Department of Corrective Services Co-ordination Centre, with the number now expanded to include referrals from all police lock-ups across the State.
Aboriginal people in the Department of Corrective Services custody, their families, friends or advocates can use the number to seek advice and support from an Aboriginal person or staff member who has undergone cultural awareness training. Those in police custody can now also access the scheme.
Callers can discuss matters in confidence and request a visit from an Aboriginal Visitors Scheme (AVS) staff member for either themselves or a member of the family they have concerns about. WA Police officers will help the interaction between the person in custody and the AVS staff.
Deputy Premier and Police Minister Liza Harvey said the enhanced scheme would provide a crucial service to Aboriginal people in custody, their families and the local community.
"The Government will continue working on tackling the issue of Aboriginal over-representation in the justice system and deaths in custody by focusing on the creation of safer custody environments, avoiding incarceration for low level offending, and supporting prevention and diversion initiatives that keep people out of the criminal justice system," Mrs Harvey said.
"The Government will further develop the scheme by employing new staff in regional areas and pursuing ongoing engagement with Aboriginal leaders and community groups.
"This new support scheme will help reduce the potential for self-harm and suicide, while also improving the condition of those in custody through consultation and advice."
Corrective Services Minister Joe Francis said the scheme, which was managed and funded by the Department of Corrective Services, had 19 part-time Aboriginal staff who were all trained in mental health and suicide prevention awareness.
"Enhancing this scheme will ensure we provide better care for those in custody by having the relevant support services in place to help with their wellbeing and rehabilitation," he said.
Deputy Premier and Police Minister's office - 6552 5900
Corrective Services Minister's office - 6552 6500