NSWCCL in the media

The Guardian: ‘We should all be furious’: Aboriginal people make up record 31% of adult prison population in NSW

New figures released on Tuesday show that the number of Aboriginal adults and young people in NSW prisons is the highest on record.

In March, the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research (Bocsar) reported that the number of Aboriginal adults in prison had hit a record high. Aboriginal adults now make up 31% of the prison population.

“To put that in perspective, in NSW, 3.2% of adults are Aboriginal, and one in 29 Aboriginal men in NSW are currently incarcerated,” said Bocsar executive director Jackie Fitzgerald.

“Alarmingly, NSW is no longer on track to meet its Close the Gap target to reduce the rate of Aboriginal adults in prison.” The goal was to decrease the rate of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults held in custody by at least 15% by 2031.

Of the 12,456 adults in prison in March, 3,841 were Indigenous. This rise is not limited to adults, Fitzgerald noted.

Aboriginal young people now account for two-thirds (66.4%) of the youth detention population, which is also a new record in NSW. The overwhelming majority of Aboriginal youth in detention are on remand (78.4%), mainly for offenses like break and enter (29.3%) and car theft (22.4%).

“This is a crisis we should all be outraged about,” said Nadine Miles, principal legal officer of the Aboriginal Legal Service.

“The mass incarceration of Aboriginal people in NSW is the direct result of government policies developed without community input, which allow continued discrimination against Aboriginal people in the legal system.” NSW Premier Chris Minns acknowledged the statistics as a “major issue” facing the state.

“We want to work with Capo [the NSW Coalition of Aboriginal Peak Organisations] and other peak Indigenous organisations to reduce the rate of incarceration,” Minns said.

“That means addressing the underlying causes of crime in our communities.”

When asked if the state’s proposed knife-wanding laws would increase the number of Aboriginal people in custody, he said it was “difficult to say” but expressed hope that it would lead to a cultural change.

Read more

Media Statement: A weak government will always make weak laws

We call on the Minns Government to abandon these reckless, and ill-conceived laws and instead, convene a meeting of the Government, the Opposition and main stakeholders within the criminal justice system and civil liberties community to chart a way forward with respect to bail and criminal law reform.

We call on the Minns Government to stop their reckless and reactive policy announcements and commit, like the previous Liberal Government did, to utilise the established State Government law reform bodies such as the Law Reform Commission and the Sentencing Council, to drive evidence based policy solutions.

New South Wales now has the highest rate of adults on remand on record, as well as the number of Aboriginal adults on record on remand. We have officially abandoned the Close the Gap target. The Premier has introduced changes to bail that will see our prison populations explode for people charged with offences but who have not been convicted of any criminal offence.

Read more

Media Statement: It is not books that Cumberland Council should fear – it is their own prejudice

We are aware that the Cumberland Councillors are meeting tomorrow to vote on whether they should overturn their discriminatory decision to ban Holly Duhig’s book “A Focus on Same-Sex Parents”.

The New South Wales Council for Civil Liberties calls on the Cumberland Councillors to overturn their motion and publicly affirm that they will abide by their own Code of Conduct, but the values of equality, diversity, and freedom of expression. 

Read more

Guardian: Labor councillor stands by vote to ban same-sex parenting books in Sydney council libraries – as it happened

Book banning does not ‘bode well for social cohesion’, civil liberties council says

The NSW Council for Civil Liberties says the decision of a Sydney council to ban a book on same-sex parenting is “out of step with Australian values and is discriminatory”.

NSWCCL president Lydia Shelly said that banning books is the “polar opposite” of what public libraries are intended for – to provide “essential repositories of knowledge and information [with] spaces for learning, exploration, and intellectual freedom”.

Read more

Media Statement: Happy birthday to the Kings Cross Medically Supervised Injecting Centre

This month marks twenty-three years since the opening of the Uniting Medically Supervised Injecting Centre in King's Cross. With no deaths from drug overdose on the premises since the beginning of operation, this is an incredible milestone, delivering decades of lifesaving, compassionate and evidence-based care to some of the most vulnerable people in our community.

In 1999, the Carr Government hosted a NSW Drug Summit that recommended the establishment of a medically supervised injecting centre.

In the years since, the Centre has provided supervision for over 1.28 million injections, provided clinical support during 11,371 overdoses without a single death, and made nearly 23,000 health and welfare referrals. The Centre has become a model of care for harm reduction across the globe.

The Uniting Medically Supervised Injecting Centre is a story of evidence-based harm reduction policy in action. Yet, the current NSW Government has seemingly stalled on the further progress it promised.

Last week NSW Council for Civil Liberties came together with leaders in the sector including Uniting, ACON, Unharm, Drug Offender Program and USYD to talk about what’s driving this inaction and what can, and should, happen to reform NSW Drug Laws.

The promised Drug Summit is an election commitment that has not yet been delivered. It should be an opportunity to recast the problematic use of drugs as a matter of public health policy with whole of government implications, but we are yet to have a date. The NSW Council for Civil Liberties, Uniting, ACON, Unharm and the Drug Offender Program call on the Minns Government to commit to a date and to a community inclusive agenda for the 2024 Drug Summit.

SIGN OUR PETITION HERE calling on all NSW Parliamentarians to support a 2024 NSW Drug Summit which takes an all of government approach, and the program includes public forums, regional and rural engagement, diverse and multicultural communities; meaningful engagement with stakeholders across festivals, nightlife venues, community groups, legal and justice stakeholders, the education sector and the health sector.

Read more

AAP: 'Leave the knife at home': new laws to keep people safe

Jack Gramenz and Samantha Lock: NSW police will be able to stop and search people for a weapon without reasonable suspicion or a warrant under new laws designed to make the public feel safer and deter people from carrying knives.

Read more

Media Statement: NSWCCL Condemns Cumberland Council's decision to ban books

The NSW Council for Civil Liberties is disappointed in Cumberland council's decision which propagates a harmful prejudice that children need to be 'protected' from LGBTQI+ families.

What is actually true is that LGBTQI+ families and their children are greater at risk of harm from discrimination and exclusion arising from these prejudices. 

Read more

The Mandarin: The social impact of digital ID

A national, government-regulated digital ID scheme certainly presents advantages. It simplifies the process of verifying our identities online and reduces the number of organizations with which we must share our personal information. However, Human Rights groups have begun considering the long-term implications of such a system, calling for greater protection of peoples rights. 

Michelle Falstein, a lawyer and an executive member of the NSW Council for Civil Liberties (NSWCCL), has some concerns.

“By linking personal identities across federal, state and local governments and the private sector, the federal government will have complete oversight of the lives of Australians,” Falstein says.

“The COVID pandemic ushered in a period of rapid normalisation of the sharing of personal information by Australians. Australians surrendered, and continue to surrender, their data, enabling mass collection, linking and storage of sensitive data by Australian governments and other online organisations … 

“Australians will now have to trust that government will use that information wisely and for their benefit.”

Falstein describes the digital ID scheme as a part of a broader trend of increasing ‘datafication’ of Australians’ lives.

“This trend raises concerns about the concentration of power and information in the hands of government or corporate entities, with potential implications for democracy, autonomy and individual rights. 

“The NSWCCL emphasises the need for responsible data governance frameworks that prioritise privacy, security and ethical use of data.”

Read more

Honi Soit: NSW Anti-protest laws under departmental review: open letter demands transparency.

In an open letter, civil rights groups have demanded the government either repeal the "anti-democratic" anti-protest laws in NSW or include a community consultation component in the ongoing review of the 2022 amendments. The review of these controversial laws, which criminalize protesting on major roads with penalties of up to $22,000 and/or two years in prison, has been conducted behind closed doors since April 1. These amendments to section 144G of the Roads Act 1993 have significantly intensified the stakes for protestors accross NSW.

Read more

Joint Media Statement: Support for the Gaza Solidarity Encampment