The current policy for prisoners accessing funerals disproportionately affects Aboriginal people by ignoring the well documented importance of acknowledging kinship ties. As such this policy does not appear to comply with whole of government substantive equality requirements.
A policy change in September 2012 was met with public criticism and was therefore quickly rescinded. The current policy which replaced the rescinded policy is even tighter and further restricts access for Aboriginal people. In making these changes the Department failed to follow its own guidance on assessing the impacts of new policy on Aboriginal people. It did not adequately analyse or understand the impact of the changes to the policy.
The Department justified the changes on the basis of projected savings of $500,000 per annum and a belief that Western Australia spends more on prisoners accessing funerals than other States. However, the Department could not provide any accurate information on the actual costs of funeral attendance or how the projected savings were calculated. It could also provide no evidence to support the claim that a $500,000 saving had already been achieved on funerals during 2011-2012, prior to the measures designed to reduce costs being implemented. In addition, despite numerous requests, the department was unable to provide any persuasive evidence that Western Australia spends more than other jurisdictions on funeral attendance. Our own research suggests that, due to the range of practices across the country, comparisons are not possible.