Police will be required to use the NSW/ACT Aboriginal Legal Service's Custody Notification Service (CNS) when an Indigenous person is detained for intoxication - not only if they are taken into custody on suspicion of an offence.
The NSW government's decision was based on a key finding from the inquest into the death of Wiradjuri woman Rebecca Maher, who died of mixed drug toxicity in a Maitland police station cell in July, 2016.
The CNS provides 24-hour support to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in custody.
It was previously mandatory for police to notify the service when an Aboriginal person was arrested on suspicion of an offence, but not if they were in custody for being intoxicated.
The Commonwealth government has provided funding to help the Aboriginal Legal Service fulfill its expanded role.
"NSW Police are obliged to notify the ALS [Aboriginal Legal Service] after taking an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander person into custody in connection with an offence to ensure they get appropriate support," NSW Attorney General Mark Speakman said.
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"This reform expands the CNS, so police must now also call the service if an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander person is taken into protective custody for intoxication."
An inquest into Ms Maher's death earlier this year found that police did not use the CNS after the 36-year-old was detained because she was not being held on suspicion of an offence.
ALS principal legal officer Nadine Miles told the Newcastle Herald the expanded system would "serve the community well".
Ms Miles said it would mean an increase in solicitor numbers across the service and the employment of a full-time coordinator - who would also be a lawyer.
"The tragedy is that the numbers across CNS have been steadily increasing over recent years," she said.
"Several years ago the numbers were around 14,500. This year alone we've reported that the CNS has taken over 19,000 calls.
"So there's a steady increase on those calls coming through to CNS, which means Aboriginal people are in custody on suspicion of committing an offence."
NSW Aboriginal Affairs Minister Don Harwin said the reform was a necessary step after the recommendations from Ms Maher's inquest.
Mr Harwin said her death at Maitland police station was "a terrible tragedy".
"We don't want to see these horrific circumstances repeated, which is why we are acting to provide better protection for First Nations people," he said.
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