The Dealing with Fines project was established in 2022 as a result of COVID. Walgett community members received the highest rates of COVID fines in NSW, and a COVID-related underspend enabled the employment of the Dealing with Fines team at the DEG. It has emerged as an exemplar of Yuwaya Ngarrali's strategy and strengths. It combines three key roles that Dharriwaa Elders Group and Yuwaya Ngarrali can effectively play: direct support to community members; collaborating with and building capability of both ACCOs and mainstream agencies; and advocacy and public engagement grounded in research.  

In its first year of operation, 94 people in Walgett were supported to have their fines written off or to participate in WDO activities to clear their fines, amounting to the reduction of $178,112 worth of fine debt while enabling people to access mental health and drug and alcohol treatment and support at WAMS, and to grow skills and contribute positively to their community. These outcomes have been achieved through a strong community-led team at the DEG, along with expert support from Peta MacGillivray, the Aboriginal Legal Service Civil Law team, and Legal Aid NSW. Sustained advocacy by DEG and YN and analysis of fines and policing data has helped draw attention to how fine debt locks people out of education and employment and increases criminalisation. Our advocacy also contributed to systemic efforts to have COVID fines withdrawn.

Clem Dodd receives award boomerang made by Stephen Dennis in Dealing with Fines Team

DEG witnesses, and its staff responds to the harmful impacts of fines on our community every day. During the COVID pandemic Walgett had the highest rate of public health order fines in NSW. 

In our Yuwaya Ngarrali partnership with UNSW, we have employed a small team to implement a WDO scheme in Walgett. The work of the Dealing with Fines Team, recruited in 2022, is client-centred and community-led, which aligns with the Yuwaya Ngarra-li Two River Pathway to Change model. It works directly with community to reduce fine debt, offering support, transport and mentoring to overcome barriers. The project collaborates with the Aboriginal Legal Service NSW/ACT to provide additional legal advice and explore alternative solutions to deal with fine debts. NSW Legal Aid assists the team with any issues they are having with the Revenue NSW interface.