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Custody Notification Service

Our Custody Notification Service (CNS) runs 24 hours a day, every day of the year to support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who’ve just been taken into custody.

Police are required to call us whenever they arrest an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander person in NSW or the ACT.


About the CNS

The CNS was set up in 2000 in response to the recommendations of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody. It’s not just a phone line – it’s a lifeline.

We received 29,563 CNS notifications in the 2022-23 financial year - a 19% increase from the previous year.


How we help

When police phone our CNS, the person they have arrested will be given the opportunity to speak one-on-one with an ALS lawyer.

We will provide legal advice and ask the client: R U OK?

Often, the answer is no. Being detained is an extremely stressful experience, and we often speak with clients who are concerned about access to medication, dealing with thoughts of self-harm, or worried about getting injuries examined by health professionals. 

Our CNS lawyers are trained to carefully respond to these concerns and do everything we can to ensure police meet their duty of care to Aboriginal people taken into custody.

We can also contact the person’s family and give them critical information about their loved one’s whereabouts, health and safety.


Case study: The CNS impact

We received a call to the CNS about a 15-year-old Aboriginal boy who had been arrested for a breach of bail in relation to interacting with another young person at school. He had never been in custody before, never been charged before, and had never breached bail.

When police first called us, they were determined to refuse bail, meaning the boy would be in police lock-up overnight. Our CNS solicitor had a discussion with the officer in charge, impressing on them the importance of avoiding juvenile detention and the likelihood that a court would grant the boy bail the next morning if police didn’t.

The boy lived at home with his dad, who was present at the police station, and he had good support at home. Our solicitor pointed out there were no unacceptable risks identified under the Bail Act if the boy were to go home with his dad that night.

The police officer ended up agreeing with our solicitor and the boy was released from custody that night.


How do I contact the CNS?

The CNS is a private line that can’t be called by the public. This helps ensure we’re available when police need to notify us about an Aboriginal person taken into custody.

If you’re worried about a family member who is detained at a police station or in prison, please call us on 1800 765 767 between 9am and 5pm, Monday to Friday.

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