New police powers during COVID-19 pandemic
Friday 27 March 2020
Be careful out there. Us mobs love to get together, outside and inside. We also tend to live in large multi-generational households or have kin in regional or remote areas of the state. All these things makes us vulnerable to new police powers designed to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
NSW Police can now issue on-the-spot fines for people who breach new public health orders about COVID-19. This includes orders about gatherings, social distancing, self-isolation, and travel from overseas and to remote communities.
Individuals can face on-the-spot fines of $1,000. Business can face on-the-spot fines of $5,000.
Police Officers will no longer require a warrant to arrest an individual breaching a public health order. So you could be charged and end up in prison. The maximum penalty is six months imprisonment and/or an $11,000 fine for an individual, and $55,000 for a corporation.
Stay out of trouble
We know Aboriginal people already face more police surveillance than other communities. The Police are also encouraging people to “dob in” those who are perceived to be breaching the health orders through Crime Stoppers.
To stay out of trouble, you need to follow all public health orders. The orders are subject to change, so it important to keep informed. For a full list of current public health orders in NSW, visit https://preview.nsw.gov.au/covid-19/public-health-orders.
Some common tips for complying with public health orders are:
- Stay at home as much as possible – only go out to buy essential things (food, medicines, fuel), exercise or to visit your doctor.
- Do not get-together outside in groups – if you are outside of your house maintain a distance of 1.5m from other people.
- Do not hold a party, barbecue or other get-together at home.
- If possible, work from home.
- If your Elders and/or grandparents are in aged care, check the rules of the nursing home before visiting them.
- There are limits on weddings (maximum of 5 people) and funerals (maximum of 10 people) – this applies to outdoor spaces associated with the venue, and the 4 square metre rule and social distancing must be observed.
- If you are returning to Australia from overseas, you will be required to stay at a quarantine hotel for 2 weeks.
- Do not travel to remote and regional areas of Australia.
These rules are really tough, but will hopefully prevent the spread of the virus. Aboriginal people are more likely to live with chronic health conditions. This makes us prone to getting a serious case of the virus. We must do all we can to protect our Elders.
If you get into trouble
Here are some organisations you can contact if you do get into trouble with the police and need legal advice and/or representation.
- Aboriginal Legal Service NSW/ACT
- Law Access
1300 888 529 (Mon to Fri 9am–5pm)
- Legal Aid
1300 888 529
- Community Legal Centres NSW
Find a community legal centre: www.clcnsw.org.au/directory
- Law Society of NSW
Find a lawyer: www.lawsociety.com.au/for-the-public/find-a-lawyer