When an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander person is taken into police custody in Victoria, VALS is notified and we offer support. The Custody Notification System sends an alert to VALS and we respond in the interests of the person. This service operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Currently, Our Custody Notification Officers (CNOs)have working relationships with 333 police stations across the state.
- An alert is sent that an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander community member is in custody at a local police station.
- One of VALS Custody Notification Officers (CNOs) becomes the first
point of contact for the person in custody, the police officers
investigating the matter and one of VALS criminal lawyers.
- The CNO will:
- Check on the health and wellbeing of people in custody
- liaise with police
- seek legal advice from our lawyers as required.
Between 1st July 2021 to 30th June 2022, the Notification Team processed over 11,800 individual notifications from police stations regarding Aboriginal people in custody. On average each notification generates a minimum of five additional calls ensuring the clients wellbeing is being monitored, liaising with police, providing legal advice, notifying family or friends, and locating other appropriate supports services. The CNS program conducted in excess of 69,000 phone calls during this period.
The CNS program has proven instrumental in providing employment pathways for our people. Following work with our casual weekend CNO section, a number of aboriginal people have gained full time employment at VALS as lawyers, client service officers, paralegals, and admin support.