Crime recording changes to support Aboriginal people in justice system, NSW

The NSW Police Force is introducing changes to crime reporting to better support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the criminal justice system.

From yesterday (Thursday 13 January 2022), it became mandatory for police to ask all victims and people-of-interest if they identify as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander, to record the status in the police system WebCOPs.

Corporate Sponsor for Aboriginal Engagement, Assistant Commissioner Joe Cassar, said the changes to recording will improve justice outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people under the National Close the Gap Agreement.

“The mandate was introduced to improve the recording of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander status in the NSW Police system,” said AC Cassar.

“Asking allows us to improve safe custody practices, refer vulnerable people to support services and divert them from the criminal justice system,” he said.

The Executive Director of the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics & Research (BOCSAR), Jackie Fitzgerald, said that previously it was not mandatory to record someone’s Aboriginal/Torres Strait Islander status, and as a result that information has deteriorated over time.

“For example, last year about 23% of domestic violence victims and 20% of drug offenders did not have a recorded Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander status,” she said.

“Improving this data for both offenders and victims helps us evaluate First Nations programs, and identify patterns of success and areas where we are not doing as well as we would anticipate. This can tell us what’s working and what’s not, so we can better allocate our resources and efforts.”

The change was introduced in consultation with NSW Aboriginal people and communities and after seeking advice from the NSW Police Aboriginal Strategic Advisory Council (PASAC).

Wiradjuri man and Deputy Secretary Transforming Aboriginal Outcomes at the Department of Communities and Justice (DCJ), Brendan Thomas, who is also part of PASAC, said the change is part of a broader vision to create a fairer justice system for Aboriginal people.

“With more accurate data, we can make better informed decisions on how to support Aboriginal people in the criminal justice system and establish programs to prevent reoffending and reduce incarceration,” said Mr Thomas.

“Key to all of this is continued consultation with Aboriginal people and communities. Aboriginal people want to be part of the solution, to create a justice system that works better for them and ultimately closes the gap,” he said.

Everyone will be asked if they identify as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander, regardless of their appearance or background, except in the instances of traffic or transport infringements, and people have a right to not respond.

/Public Release. View in full here.