Campaign to free Aboriginal women jailed for unpaid fines

An online crowdfunding campaign set up to help Aboriginal women in Western Australia avoid jail for unpaid fines has raised $230,000 in its first four days and already settled the debts of 30 imprisoned women, with another 50 expected to be free in coming weeks.

The campaign is being organised by the Queensland-based Sisters Inside advocacy group.

In a statement calling for donations, Sisters Inside explained: “Western Australia refuses to change the laws where people who have no criminal convictions are imprisoned if they do not have the capacity to pay a fine.

“Single Aboriginal mothers make up the majority of those in prison who do not have the capacity to pay fines. They are living in absolute poverty and cannot afford food and shelter for their children let alone pay a fine.”

There is growing pressure on the state government to change the law and stop incarcerations due to non-payment of fines.

WA Aboriginal woman Ms Dhu tragically died in 2014 after suffering inhumane treatment at the hands of police and hospital staff. Ms Dhu was in custody for an unpaid fine of $2150.

Following her death, the WA Coroners Court recommended an end to fine-related jail sentences.

The crowdfunding campaign has also drawn attention to the government's practice of selling fines to profit-driven interests.

Sisters Inside CEO Debbie Kilroy tweeted on January 10: “Tragically we cannot pay one of the young Aboriginal mothers fines this afternoon cause the WA government has sold the fine debt to a private debt collection corporation. Warrants of Confinement could be issued. WTF. This is capitalism at its absolute worse”

[You can donate to the campaign here.]