Custody Notification Service

The Custody Notification Service (CNS) is a 24-hour legal advice and RU OK phone line for Aboriginal people taken into police custody.

Under NSW law, Police must contact the ALS whenever they have taken an Aboriginal person into custody.

The Police phone our CNS, and the Aboriginal person receives early legal advice from an ALS lawyer, ensuring their fundamental legal rights are respected and less Aboriginal people are imprisoned.

The ALS lawyer also asks the Aboriginal person: RU OK? Often, the answer is no. Threats of self-harm or suicide are common. Concerns about access to medication are common. Notifications of injuries sustained that need to be examined by a health professional are common.

Our CNS lawyers are trained to carefully respond to these concerns, including notifying custody Police who partake in appropriate duty of care.

Our CNS lawyers can also contact the person’s family and an Aboriginal Field Officer, ensuring parental or family concern for that person’s whereabouts and health are minimised.

Simply, the CNS is not just a phone line, it’s a lifeline.

At nearly the same cost per year of detaining two juveniles, the CNS assists over 15,000 Aboriginal people every year.

It was set up in 2000 in response to NSW legislation implementing recommendations of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody, that Police should notify the ALS whenever they take an Aboriginal person into custody.

Significantly, there have been no Aboriginal deaths in police cell custody since the CNS began.

Aboriginal men, women and children in custody trust the ALS and share their medical or other concerns with the CNS lawyer, knowing the lawyer will advocate for their legal, health and family welfare.

Today, the CNS operates in NSW and ACT taking on average 300 calls per week.

The CNS:

  • Decreases preventable injuries or deaths in police cell custody
  • Increases legal and health protections for a person in police cell custody
  • Increases Aboriginal family and community safety
  • Reduces Aboriginal incarceration rates
  • Affords legislated State protection of fair and equitable access to justice to vulnerable Aboriginal people