NSW Shadow Minister for Aboriginal Affairs Linda Burney has condemned the O'Farrell Government's proposed "Sobering up Centres" as a dangerous and costly waste of resources – and a band-aid solution to alcohol-related violence.
As detailed in a Bill under debate in Parliament today, the O'Farrell Government is planning to trial three centres – one in Sydney City, one in Coogee and one in Wollongong – with two starting in July.
Ms Burney said the idea that locking a group of intoxicated people together would reduce drunken violence was misguided and dangerous – particularly for Kooris.
"While every State and Territory Government over the past 20 years has worked hard to reduce the number of Aboriginal people in custody, in NSW we are finding new and innovative ways to lock people up," Ms Burney said.
"This is a crazy idea. There is a strong likelihood of fights within the centres – so the Government will have to pour huge resources into trying to keep people safe.
"The health and wellbeing of detainees will also have to be monitored carefully – taking up the valuable time of doctors and nurses.
"Under the proposed legislation, some of the most vulnerable in our community – including those sleeping rough – could be locked up against their will without being arrested or charged with anything at all.
"The cost recovery provisions are particularly cruel – many people detained in these centres will already be suffering from financial hardship.
"What's more, I have not seen any evidence that the O'Farrell Government has seriously considered the particular impact that these centres could have on Aboriginal people – who, for a range of reasons – may attract more attention.
"This is a simplistic approach to a complex issue and is likely to cause more problems than it solves.
"It has been 22 years since the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody – have we learned nothing?
"NSW Labor opposes this plan and I will continue to speak out against this dreadful legislation in the Parliament."