Operation Stay Home must not be excuse to target Aboriginal people

Aboriginal Legal Service NSW/ACT (ALS)

As NSW Police commence ‘Operation Stay Home’, the Aboriginal Legal Service NSW/ACT has raised concerns about over-policing of Aboriginal communities and urged Aboriginal people to seek assistance in dealing with infringement notices.

During last year’s COVID lockdown, police handed out the most fines in suburbs with a high Aboriginal population. People living in Mount Druitt, Liverpool, Green Valley, Blacktown and Redfern topped the list.

“This is no surprise – statistics demonstrate that Aboriginal people are typically subject to over-policing,” said Anthony Carter, Deputy CEO of the Aboriginal Legal Service NSW/ACT (ALS).

“Now that police have extra powers and are joined on the ground by 800 members of the Australian Defence Force, we are extremely concerned about the potential for Aboriginal people to again be targeted and intimidated,” Mr Carter said.

The ALS is urging Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in NSW and the ACT to contact them for help with infringement notices.

“If you’ve received a fine, we want to know. Our offices are currently closed to the public, but we have extra people on the phones. Call us on 1800 765 767 – we can help,” Mr Carter said.

The ALS is also calling on the NSW Government to provide clearer public communication on COVID rules and support Aboriginal community-controlled organisations to protect their clients.

“The vast majority of people want to do the right thing. We’ve seen how determined Aboriginal communities are to protect one another – they set the bar for locking down last year. The Close the Gap Report noted the rate of COVID-19 infection for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people was six times lower than the rest of Australia,” Mr Carter said.

“We really want to keep it that way. It’s on the NSW Government to ensure masks, rapid testing, vaccines and other resources are available to towns including Walgett, Dubbo, Brewarrina and Bourke, where local organisations are doing their best to curb the regional outbreak.

“We also need clear, accessible information made available for our communities on the COVID rules, which are constantly changing.”

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