In just two days, 3,048 people have donated more than $130,000 in a crowdfunding campaign seeking to pay the fines of at least 100 Aboriginal women who are being held in Western Australian prisons.
The #freethepeople campaign was started by Debbie Kilroy, the Executive Director of Sisters Inside. Initially they were seeking to raise $99,000 but have increased their target to $150,000 in a bid to free more women.
We are so overwhelmed by 2,303 ppl who donated $99K to free impoverished Aboriginal mothers from prison Thx for making a clear stance against criminalising poverty The campaign amount has increased to $150K to free more women #freethepeople #freeherhttps://t.co/kgIwHKyK1A
— Debbie Kilroy (@DebKilroy) January 8, 2019
In WA the laws mean that people who have no criminal convictions can be imprisoned if they do not have the capacity to pay a fine. Single Aboriginal mothers make up the majority of those held in prison on this basis. Many of these women are living in poverty and cannot afford food and shelter for their children let alone pay a fine.
Kilroy told The Guardian she is overwhelmed by the public response.
“My heart is so warm and I am uplifted,” she said. “It’s a clear message to the WA government to lift their game and change the legislation as a matter of urgency, not in the middle of the year.”
Up to 30 jailed Indigenous women expected to be freed after crowdfunding campaignhttps://t.co/6hNr8cyOjL
— Helen Davidson (@heldavidson) January 8, 2019
The funds raised so far mean up to 30 Aboriginal women may be released from prison by the end of the week, but the bigger fish is changing the laws that put them there in the first place.
A coronial inquest into the death of a 22-year-old Aboriginal woman, known as Ms Dhu, who died while in police custody after being detained over unpaid parking fines in 2014, recommended the law that allowed her to be arrested be changed.
It’s yet to happen.
Debbie Kilroy says using prison as the default response to poverty and homelessness is unconscionable.
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