When Brian Roberts was 19, he’d accumulated $4,000 worth of fines with no way of paying them off.
Twenty years on and he’s finally managed to pay the last of his debt off, thanks to the State Debt Recovery’s Work Development Order (WDO) program.
Fine-free, Mr Roberts has been able to get his driver’s licence for the first time in 20 years, and was this week going for his P-plates.
“The fines had restricted me over the last 20 years,” he said.
After getting involved in a men’s group with his cousin when he moved back home to Ballina, Mr Roberts was able to sign up to a WDO and use the hours he’d been involved in the men’s group to pay off some of his fines.
Since moving to Moree, Mr Roberts transferred his WDO to complete work with Miyay Birray, as well as completing confined spaces and front end loader courses through Best Employment.
Those hours helped to pay off the last of his debt and Mr Roberts headed straight to the Roads and Maritime Service to get his driver’s licence.
“It felt like a whole lot of weight was lifted off my shoulders,” he said.
“I got my licence which was a huge relief and I’m going for my Ps next week.
“Best also helped pay for my licence.”
Once he gets his provisional licence, Mr Roberts is hoping to secure work.
Mr Roberts isn’t alone in his struggle to pay off fines and he encourages others in a similar situation to what he was to reach out and seek help before it gets out of hand.
“Just put yourself out there and keep asking,” he said.
“Be persistent in chasing up your fines. Don’t be lazy and sit back and think it’s going to go away. The assistance is out there.”
Another Moree resident, Cecil Craigie had $1,000 worth of fines that he’d had for 20 years.
He ended up getting help from Best Employment who sponsored him for a WDO through which Mr Craigie completed a site identification course at Terry Hie Hie.
Mr Craigie said he’d paid off his fines just four days into the two-week TAFE course, which was a huge relief.
“My confidence is back and I’ve got extra money in my pocket,” he said.
Mr Craigie and Mr Roberts shared their stories at an event run by Revenue NSW and Moree Aboriginal Community Justice Group at Moree Court House last Wednesday, December 6 to address the problem of unpaid fines.
The Moree community currently owes more than $2 million in fines to Revenue NSW, so the free event was a chance for people to come down, find out exactly how much they owe and either pay the fines on the spot, work out a payment plan, or, if eligible, sign up for a WDO to work off their fines.
A WDO allows eligible people who have a mental illness, intellectual disability or cognitive impairment, are homeless, are experiencing acute economic hardship, or have a serious addiction to drugs/alcohol/volatile substances to satisfy their fine debt through unpaid work with an approved organisation or by undertaking certain courses or treatment.
The reduction of a fines debt will be determined by the type of activity completed as part of a WDO.
If people don’t pay their fines, they are referred to the State Debt Recovery Office and incur a $65 penalty, on top of what they owe, for each offence.
If that doesn’t get paid, further action will be taken including suspening people’s licence, registration or dealings with Road and Maritime Services. As a last resort, people could face jail time.