A coalition of Aboriginal community groups and homeless services have written to the WA government expressing concern about the proposed new laws for Sheltered Entertainment Precincts.
- The laws will give police powers to mobilize violent criminals from nightclubs
- Indigenous peoples are feared to be disproportionately targeted
- One expert said the appeal process for the new laws “won’t happen.”
Represented by Social Reinvestment WA, the organizations fear the laws disproportionately affect indigenous people and the vulnerable, and have called on the government to address the points of concern.
Aboriginal Legal Service WA (ALS WA) also said it had not been consulted and had serious fears about the impact the Protected Entertainment Enclosure (PEP) laws could have.
The organisation’s executive director, Dennis Eggington, said there was little evidence that PEP laws prevented violence and he had no doubt that Aboriginal people would be many of those affected by the bans.
“This state has to start treating First Nations people as equals, and it’s a terrible, terrible shame that in 2022, after everything we’ve been through, we now have these orders in place,” he said.
The laws proposed by the state government will create five precincts in Perth-Northbridge, Mandurah, Hillarys, Scarborough and Fremantle, where people can be banned from entering.
They aim to reduce violence in WA nightspots and will go before Parliament later this year following stakeholder consultations.
Part of the legislation will bar released inmates from entering those areas for five years if they were convicted of committing serious violent or sexual offenses in one of the compounds.
“I don’t think anyone questions that. Regardless of who they are, if they’ve committed those kinds of crimes, they shouldn’t be in our entertainment venues,” Police Minister Paul Papalia said.
The other part of the legislation will give police powers to ban anyone who behaves in an “antisocial”, “disorderly” or “threatening” manner from entering the site for six months. ” road.
ALS concerned about police implementation
The government has said the laws will target behavior and not a particular group of people.
“We won’t know how they play out in any respect until they are enacted and they haven’t even entered parliament,” Papalia said.
“We will be watching and making sure they are applied fairly and achieve their intended result.”
But Professor Eggington said he feared Aborigines would end up being targeted regardless of good intentions.
“Yes, I believe them,” he said.
“But they don’t understand the insidious nature of colonialism, or the fact that there will be officers on the ground who will see an Aboriginal person and attack them, because that’s what they will do.
“I say this with some authority: We’ve been through move-out notices, we’ve been through curfews, we’ve been through social behavior orders.
“And 75 per cent of everyone who gets swept away by them is Aboriginal.”
Social Reinvestment WA co-chair Glenda Kickett said being targeted by police was a common fear among WA Aboriginal people.
“That has been a historical practice for us,” he said.
“We don’t want our youth to continue to be targeted and placed in prisons or detention centers, where we already have an overrepresentation of our youth.”
In WA’s adult prisons, 40 percent of the population is indigenous, and in juvenile detention that figure is 74 percent.
“We are all very convinced of the way the government responds to crime in this state,” said Ms. Kickett.
“We really want the government to re-invest in communities, instead of putting more money into arresting people for things that are some kind of really vague criminal activity.”
‘We are not going to distribute them like confetti’
The Police Minister said he was confident officers would only issue short-term bans in the most serious cases.
“They’re not going to give them out like confetti … they’re going to give them to people who are probably frequent flyers,” Papalia said.
“They’ll probably be the kind of people who get them for a reason, they’re pushy, they’re antisocial, they make trouble and they make it a bad place for other people who just want to enjoy an entertainment venue.
“It’s good that we can exclude those people.”
ALS WA director of legal services Peter Collins said another concern was the difficulty he expected vulnerable people to face in accessing the appeals process if they were placed on a six-month ban.
“The appeals process will be non-existent. It’s complete madness, it’s not going to happen,” she said.
“Because these people do not have the resources or the means to be able to undertake the process.
“And legal services like ALS are so stressed when it comes to caseloads that we won’t be able to meet the needs of these people to go through an appeals process.”
Collins also questioned where the government expected people to live on release from prison if they had previously lived in Perth or Northbridge, especially if they were homeless.
He said the best outcome would be if the legislation was scrapped entirely, and the next best thing would be if the government made sensible amendments after consultation.
The government has said waivers will be put in place to allow people to access services.
“My challenge to the government will be, if in six months or 12 months, those laws show that they are choosing between 65 and 75 per cent of Aboriginal people in their sweeps, then they have to repeal them and fix them up,” the professor said. Eggington.
“Because they promised to do that before they came into government, that they would take care of the Aborigines.”
Plans spark trauma, concerns over cultural sites
For First Nations people, the proposed legislation brings up the traumatic past of a time when Aboriginal people were not allowed to walk the streets of Perth without a permit or ‘native pass’.
Ms. Kickett said the laws could re-traumatize indigenous people.
“It’s something that we still live with, and it’s really that trauma of those experiences, the exclusion of our children or young people, our families, [that] it’s causing more trauma,” he said.
“It’s causing more trauma for our families.”
Professor Eggington said that the nature of the legislation followed a disappointing pattern.
“It smacks of the old days when Aborigines weren’t allowed to enter the city after 6pm, and it actually smacks of continued colonization of our country,” he said.
“Unfortunately, most of our people, by the time they are a certain age, have been in trouble with the law.”
When asked about the comparison with previous laws, Papalia said that the PEP laws were completely different.
“These are people behaving aggressively, violently and antisocially, and hurting other members of the public,” he said.
“This is about making campuses safer for people going about their normal business safely, and that’s a reasonable thing to do.”
Aboriginal groups have also raised concerns regarding access to important cultural heritage sites within the PEP boundaries, such as traditional camps and burial sites of important indigenous figures.