“A dark day for NSW”: New incarceration laws stir internal Labor opposition

“A dark day for NSW”: New incarceration laws stir internal Labor opposition
Image: Bianca de Marchi, AAP Image



The passage of laws to toughen the penalties for youth crime has infuriated Aboriginal communities, legal practitioners, and supporters of Indigenous justice alike.

The Bail and Crimes Amendment Bill was proposed as a solution to deal with high crime rates amongst youth, particularly in remote regions. But it rather underscores a blatant infringement of human rights through seeking to make simpler the incarceration of children.

The new laws make it harder for minors charged with crimes to get bail. Rushed through Parliament within three days, and without sufficient consultation, the Bill would also disproportionately affect the Indigenous population.

CEO of Aboriginal Legal Service (ALS) Katy Warner has said the passage of laws marks the beginning of a campaign that will not end until the laws are scrapped.

“We are drawing a line in the sand. We cannot accept an Australia that puts children in jail instead of evidence-based policy that actually makes communities safer,” she said.

An open letter from ALS to the Labor Government, signed by 560 lawyers, community workers and academics, had previously urged the premier not to proceed with the new laws, which make it harder for young offenders to get bail.

“The proposed bail changes and new offences will be disastrous for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people,” the letter reads.

Furthermore, new punitive measures and offences don’t address concerns for improved community safety, the statement continues.

Internal Labor opposition welcomed 

Councils are also gearing up to apply pressure on the government not to proceed, even internally opposing Labor politics, as seen with Inner West Mayor Darcy Byrne.

Friday, when the laws were passed, was “a dark day for NSW”, he said.

That the new legislation has been introduced following the nation’s recent referendum has only fuelled widespread anger and concern.

“Thousands of people, who campaigned passionately for Yes in the recent referendum are shocked and appalled that just a few months later the NSW Government is proposing to make it easier to incarcerate Aboriginal children,” the mayor said.

“The Aboriginal community have been brutalised in recent months by the referendum result and an increase in vitriol towards them,” he continued.

“It is distressing that just a few months after the referendum the NSW Government is putting through legislation that goes against the entire ethos of the Uluru Statement from the Heart.” 

The mayor’s discourse has also highlighted the complexities of placing children behind bars often leading to counter-productive results.

“Locking up children will lead to more crime, not less, and we must now force the Government to actually look at the evidence and fund what’s been proven to work” he said.

In a local effort to pressure the government to drop the new legislation, the mayor will tonight convene an emergency meeting of Aboriginal, legal, and human rights organisations.

The coalition will then mobilise to apply pressure on the Government to “implement a real solution and not knee-jerk responses”, according to a media statement.

The internal Labor pressure against the Premier’s actions has also been welcomed.

Ms Warner said, “This internal opposition shows that while the Bill has passed, the fight to rectify these dangerous laws is far from over.”


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