The UNSW community is invited to a Yuwaya Ngarra-li webinar that discusses a project to address fine debt in Walgett.
Yuwaya Ngarra-li is a community-led partnership between the Dharriwaa Elders Group (DEG) and UNSW that aims to improve the wellbeing, social, built and physical environment and life pathways of Aboriginal people in Walgett. The partnership grew from collaboration on an ARC Linkage study (2011–2015) on the criminalisation of Aboriginal people with mental and cognitive disability.
In the upcoming webinar, key representatives of the DEG, Aboriginal Legal Service and the UNSW Yuwaya Ngarra-li team will discuss their work together over the past 18 months to address fine debt in Walgett.
The DEG has witnessed the detrimental impact of fines in their community, leading to cycles of financial hardship, poverty and criminalisation. Fines, issued as civil and criminal penalties, can result in secondary criminalisation and further disadvantage when individuals are unable to pay.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, over-policing in Walgett resulted in the highest rate of public health order fines in NSW, disproportionately affecting Aboriginal community members. In the 2021/22 financial year, $438,577 of fines were issued in Walgett, a town with a population of around 2000 people.
Although there was a significant increase in fines relating to COVID- 19 Public Health Orders, the value of fines issued in previous financial years still represented a burden of hundreds of thousands of dollars to the Walgett community. In the 2022/23 financial year a further $360,115 worth of fines were issued by police.
As a response, DEG, with support from UNSW Yuwaya Ngarra-li colleagues, established the Dealing with Fines project, which aims to improve access to justice and reduce criminalisation for Aboriginal people in Walgett. The project focuses on supporting people to resolve their fine debt through access to legal services and advice. It also connects people to culturally appropriate Work and Development Orders (WDOs) that enable them to work off their fines and address community priorities and social needs.
In its first year, the project has supported people living in Walgett to write or work off $178,112 worth of fine debt. This success is due to the project’s community-led approach and collaboration with the Aboriginal Legal Service to provide flexible and timely support.
Dealing with Fine Debt webinar details
- Peta MacGillivray, Yuwaya Ngarra-li Senior Research Fellow (Law & Justice), UNSW
- Zoe Sands, Yuwaya Ngarra-li Project Officer, Dharriwaa Elders Group
- Lauren Stefanou, Principal Solicitor (Justice Projects, Policy & Practice), Aboriginal Legal Service
- Dr Rebecca Reeve, Yuwaya Ngarra-li Senior Research Fellow (Quantitative Research), UNSW.
Date and time: Wednesday 25 October, 12pm–1pm.
Image caption: Clem Dodd (Dharriwaa Elders Group [DEG] Speaker) is presented with a bubarraa (fighting boomerang) by Steven “Bungee” Dennis, a Dealing with Fines team member at the DEG, after receiving the NSW Aboriginal Culture, Heritage & Arts Outstanding Lifetime Achievement award.