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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2021 Week 12 Hansard (Thursday, 25 November 2021) . . Page.. 3787 ..


(4) Is funding still occurring; if not, which entity is now providing the interview friends program previous offered by Aboriginal Legal Service.

Mr Rattenbury: The answer to the member’s question is as follows:

Section 24A of the Crimes (Forensic Procedures) Act 2000 (ACT) commenced in October 2015.

In summary, section 24A provides that if a suspect is an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander person then an interview friend is required when the suspect is being asked to consent to a forensic procedure, unless the suspect has expressly and voluntarily waived their right to an interview friend being present. An interview friend can be:

a) a parent or guardian or other person chosen by, or acceptable to, the person; or

b) a lawyer of the person; or

c) if the person is an incapable person—a close associate of the person; or

d) if no one mentioned in paragraphs (a) to (c) is available—a person chosen by an authorised applicant for a forensic order in relation to the person who is not—

(i) a police officer; or

(ii) in any way involved in the investigation of the offence concerned.

The Crimes Act 1914 (Cth) also contains requirements with respect to interview friends for Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander suspects, offenders and volunteers.

Prior to October 2015, an ACT Interview Friends Scheme had been established under which Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people brought into police custody for interview, had the option of seeking interview friend support from a list of interview friend community volunteers.

This list of interview friend community volunteers met the requirement (then) on the relevant Commonwealth Minister, under section 23J of the Crime Act 1914, to maintain a list of interview friends. At different times, the list of interview friend community volunteers was maintained by JACS, the Aboriginal Justice Centre and the Aboriginal Legal Service NSW/ ACT.

From October 2015, the ACT Interview Friends Scheme was also available to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander suspects being asked to consent to a forensic procedure under section 24A of the Crimes (Forensic Procedures) Act 2000 (ACT) be offered an interview friend.

In 2018, section 23J of the Crimes Act 1914 (Cth) was repealed and the requirement on the relevant Commonwealth Minister to maintain a list of interview friends ceased.

In 2019, the ACT Government’s arrangement with the Aboriginal Legal Service NSW/ ACT, requiring it to maintain a list of volunteer interview friends ceased.

The Aboriginal Legal Service NSW/ ACT has continued to be funded to provide legal representation that can be requested to provide services that meet the Commonwealth’s and ACT’s legislated interview friend requirements. In addition to the Commonwealth funding provided to the ALS, the ACT Government provides annual funding to the ALS for a Duty Lawyer at $109,390 per year.



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