Aboriginal Legal Service begins IT overhaul to capture better data

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Aboriginal Legal Service begins IT overhaul to capture better data

To improve safety and wellbeing of people in custody.

The Aboriginal Legal Service (ALS) is developing a new data analytics capability to improve outcomes for Indigenous Australians in the criminal justice system.

The service has partnered with the University of Technology Sydney to modernise processes at the ALS’ Custody Notification Service (CNS), a 24-hour legal advice and support hotline for Aboriginal people in custody.

The modernisation is initially for the CNS in NSW/ACT, and could be extended nationally if the project proves successful.

Currently, the service relies on an ageing phone system and paper-based reporting, which ALS principal legal officer Nadine Miles said is inefficient due to the amount of double-handling involved.

“Outdated technology and reliance on paper based systems means that our staff are spending significant amounts of time recording and inputting data, but then being unable to effectively analyse and interpret trends in that data – which is crucial to improving the rights and wellbeing of Aboriginal people in custody,” Miles said.

The ALS is working with UTS’ Rapido Social on the project, a research and development unit supporting not-for-profit organisations in the delivery of both hardware and software initiatives.

Sophie Ritchie, Rapido Social’s impact manager, said the ALS project will make the Custody Notification Service more user-friendly for staff by making data that is already collected more accessible for analytics purposes.

“Rapido Social will collaborate with ALS staff to develop a user-friendly digital platform that will optimise data collation, and draw on cutting-edge data analytics and reporting capabilities to make information more readily available for analysis by ALS, in NSW/ACT and nationally, for advocacy on behalf of individuals and communities,” Ritchie said.

UTS Law Faculty Professor Thalia Anthony said that a more efficient notification system and data capability will be essential to ensuring the safety and wellbeing of Indigenous people in custody.

“It will generate data to improve responses to the needs of Aboriginal people in the criminal justice system and enable longer-term planning for support and wraparound services," Anthony said.

Miles added that the project, which is funded by the National Indigenous Advancement Agency (NIAA), could also strengthen ALS' work outside of the CNS, including in advocacy, policy and law reform.

“An improved data base will both inform and enhance ALS functions and also help meet the needs of Aboriginal people who are in custody," Miles said.

"Without a good data set, it is not possible to both demonstrate our impact and determine what and where needs are.”

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