Text support for Aboriginal court users

Issued: Thursday, 14 August 2014
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A text message service run by the Department of Justice is helping Indigenous people charged with offences meet their obligation to turn up to court.

Attorney General Brad Hazzard said the SMS project was introduced in 2012 at 10 courthouses across the state including Toronto, Mt Druitt, Dubbo, Condobolin, Walgett, Penrith, Broken Hill, Bourke and Downing Centre Local Courts and the Parramatta Children’s Court.

“The vast majority of Indigenous people charged with offences fully comply and turn up to court,” Mr Hazzard said.

“For those that don’t comply, over the 12 months we have seen the number of adults and juveniles failing to appear before court drop by 20 per cent statewide thanks to innovative projects like this.”

“Messages are sent to both adults and juveniles advising them of their court appearance date and reminding them of their bail conditions – and helping them avoid having a bench warrant issued for their arrest if they fail to appear.”

Mr Hazzard told a Catholic Social Services event at Parliament House today that the SMS service had been a success. The NSW Government will expand the service to Taree, Kempsey, Moree, Batemans Bay, Nowra and Wagga before the end of the year.

Minister for Aboriginal Affairs Victor Dominello said that in 2011, prior to the SMS project, 493 Indigenous people failed to appear in court. In 2013 the number had fallen to 408.

“The NSW Government is investing in programs to improve support services for Aboriginal people charged with offences.

“This is a small but important initiative to encourage people to meet their obligations to turn up to court and get the opportunity to present their case.

“Since it began operating there has been overwhelming positive feedback from police, courts and Aboriginal communities.”

The SMS program is managed by Aboriginal Client Service Specialists who are employed to improve relationships between Aboriginal people and the courts through culturally sensitive support services and outreach programs.