Aboriginal Legal Service (NSW/ACT)

ALS News

Funding needed for Custody Notification Service

01 May 2015


The Custody Notification Service is more than a phone line, it’s a lifeline. To keep the phone line operating, the ALS needs:

  • Funding of $526,000 per annum to commence 1 July 2015

  • A funding commitment of two - five years

There have been no Aboriginal deaths in police cell custody since the phone line began.


In 2013 we fought hard to get a funding grant for the Custody Notification Service (CNS), and now two years later, we're looking for a funding commitment again.

Our 24-hour legal advice and RU OK phone line for Aboriginal people taken into police custody - the CNS – will cease to exist on 30th June 2015 unless funding is urgently found.

The CNS is a telephone advice and well-check service operated by the ALS.

By law, NSW police must contact the ALS every time they detain an Aboriginal man, woman or child in a NSW police station. The Aboriginal person is given the opportunity to talk to a qualified ALS lawyer. They are advised about their rights in custody and their legal situation. The lawyers also ask if the person is OK. Often they are not. Health and other issues are reported to the trusted ALS lawyer who can then talk to police on behalf of the detained person to ensure they are made safe. The lawyer can also contact family and friends.

The CNS is currently funded through a grant from the Australian government Attorney-General's department. In December 2014 we applied for future funding for the CNS from the government’s Indigenous Advancement Strategy (IAS) funding round, but were not accepted. The 24-hour phone line may cease to operate on 30 June 2015 unless a funding source is found.

Senator Nigel Scullion has publicly supported the CNS, but we need that support to translate into funding for the Service.

Each year 15,000 Aboriginal people are asked RU OK and assisted through the phone line. Aboriginal incarceration rates are already shocking; without the phone line and the early legal advice they will increase.

Please help us assist vulnerable Aboriginal people in police custody with access to early legal advice and a well check through our 24-hour legal advice and RU OK phone line – the CNS.




Phone Senator Nigel Scullion - Ph: (02) 6277 7780 or (08) 8948 3555 or 1300 301 723


Phone Attorney-General George Brandis - Ph: (02) 6277 7300 or (07) 3862 4044


Email or write a letter to your Local Member 

Ask them to help find funding for the CNS. If you're emailing, copy the letter to Senator Nigel Scullion and Attorney-General George Brandis.

Questions you might ask your Local Member include:

  • What will be the impact on families in his/her electorate if the CNS is not refunded?
  • What will be the impact on local police in his/her electorate if the CNS is not funded, as the CNS sets up a working partnership with the ALS which ensures everyone is working together to prevent Aboriginal deaths in police station custody?
  • What will be the impact on the local court house if the CNS is not funded, because without receiving early legal advice, many vulnerable people may give false confessions due to fear and intimidation, which means more people will face longer court times?
  • What is the Local Member's feeling about dragging their local community back to the 1970's by not funding one of the services clearly recommended by the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody which has helped prevent further Aboriginal deaths in police station custody?


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Contact us via email or phone 0418 254 237 to help us attract funding for the CNS.

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