Ms Dhu 4b - Pervasive Criminalisation


Pervasive Criminalisation

A woman pictured at a protest carrying a placard reading 'Unpaid fines should not be a death sentence' in one hand and an Aboriginal flag in another. She wears a shirt with Ms Dhu's photo on it and a plaited headband of red, yellow and black. [imagecaption] National Day of Action, Whadjuk Country (Perth), 2014. Photo: Marziya Mohammedali. [/imagecaption]


Ms Dhu was the subject of four Warrants of Commitment for fines and costs totalling $3622.34. These were accrued between 2009-2011 and started with a $200 fine. Based on the largest fine, which could be ‘cut out’ at $250 per day, Ms Dhu was to serve 4 days in custody. Like many other women who are incarcerated for the non-payment of fines, Ms Dhu had no other realistic means of paying these fines. Since 2010, one in every six Aboriginal people going to prison in WA has done so for fine default (not including people held in police custody, like Ms Dhu). In 2013, 1 in 3 women who entered the prison system did so to clear fines. Ms Dhu’s death has prompted policy reviews and renewed debate about ‘law and order politics’ and the incarceration of people for fine default. Despite recommendations, reports have continued to emerge from WA of other women being similarly targeted, including a mother of five whose outstanding fines were paid by a pensioner who felt compelled to intervene to prevent her from being imprisoned. One of Ms Dhu’s cousins was threatened with warrants of commitment for unpaid fines, while Keennan Dickie, an Aboriginal woman who sustained a broken rib after being robbed and assaulted, was taken into custody for unpaid fines following a check by police.

Following these events, the activist organization Sisters Inside initiated a crowdfunding campaign to raise funds to pay the court fines levied on Aboriginal women to stop them from being sent to jail for non-payment of fines in Western Australia.

‘Unpaid fines. To lose her life over that is a testament to how deeply ingrained the racism is in the system.’

Shaun Harris (Ms Dhu’s Uncle)



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