Thursday 14 July 2022
The Aboriginal Legal Service has welcomed a $28.2 million investment to support new Aboriginal community-led initiatives under the Closing the Gap agreement, but flagged concerns over the inadequacy of funding for its core legal services.
The new funding comes as part of the NSW Government’s $400 million Closing the Gap package announced in the 2022-23 Budget. It will support new community-led programs co-designed by the Aboriginal Legal Service (NSW/ACT) Limited, the NSW Coalition of Aboriginal Peak Organisations, and the NSW Government, aimed at reducing imprisonment and keeping families safe and whole.
“It’s exciting to see investment in these new initiatives, which are building towards the fundamental, structural changes that we need to see in the legal system and how it works for Aboriginal people,” said Karly Warner, ALS CEO.
The new programs include a bail advocacy service pilot in Sydney and Newcastle, supporting Aboriginal people to access bail and avoid imprisonment on remand; a child and family advocacy service pilot in western NSW, aiming to avoid Aboriginal children being removed from their families into out-of-home care; a therapeutic pathways program to divert Aboriginal children away from the criminal legal system by providing holistic support; and a ‘throughcare’ strategy to help Aboriginal people reintegrate into the community after leaving prison.
The funding will also establish an Aboriginal Justice Partnership between Aboriginal communities and the NSW Government, which will work to deliver structural change across the legal system by strengthening the Aboriginal community-controlled sector, addressing systemic racism, sharing decision-making, and improving accountability.
“We will be engaging with Aboriginal communities and partner organisations across NSW to design and deliver these projects, with the principle of community control at the forefront,” Ms Warner said.
While she welcomed the NSW Government’s funding for new initiatives, Ms Warner expressed concern that the Aboriginal Legal Service’s core programs continue to be underfunded.
“Demand continues to grow for our core legal services in civil, criminal defence, child protection and family law. We welcomed the emergency funding we received as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, but now that this funding has ended and despite more and more Aboriginal people needing our specialist services, we are being forced to consider how to reduce our core services,” Ms Warner said.
“The NSW and Commonwealth Governments know that the only way to close the gap is to provide long-term, sustainable funding for Aboriginal community-controlled services,” Ms Warner said.
Media contact: Alyssa Robinson - [email protected] - 0427 346 017