6 February 2019
ALS OFFICE IN COFFS HARBOUR WILL MEET INCREASED DEMAND FOR LEGAL SERVICES
Aboriginal Legal Service (NSW/ACT) says the opening of an office in Coffs Harbour will not affect the current service delivery in the Clarence Valley area. The ALS will continue to provide services to Grafton and Maclean Courts and the community.
“The Board’s decision to establish a new office in Coffs Harbour is evidence-based and follows a comprehensive review of localised need, demand, capacity and resources to provide representation services in the courts of Coffs Harbour, Grafton and Maclean,” ALS Chair, Bunja Smith, said today.
“We reiterate that the ALS will continue to provide culturally-appropriate legal and support services to
people in the Clarence Valley area, that won’t change.
“The Coffs Harbour Justice Precinct built in 2015 is the largest justice precinct in regional NSW. With five courtrooms and each courtroom having video conference technology to screen bail applications made from correctional centres and evidence from off-site witnesses. Coffs Harbour Court today is extremely busy and has full-time sittings which include a mix of Local and specialised Children’s Court matters. It’s become the ‘hub’ for the Region’s court and legal services, with Family and CommunityServices also having their main operations in Coffs Harbour.
“Strategically, ALS must work in areas like Coffs Harbour where demands for our legal and support services are critical. The relocation of the ALS office will meet the increased local demand at Coffs Harbour and is the most economically viable use of existing resources. Therefore, the ALS Board have made the decision to establish the ALS office in Coffs Harbour.
“We obviously recognise people’s questions about our service delivery model in the Clarence Valley area and we appreciate that change is often difficult, however the challenge the ALS is facing is ongoing funding constraints which means that we must focus on areas where there’s increased demand for our services. The local ALP candidate for Page, Patrick Deegan, acknowledged this recently when he spoke of the ALS operating on ‘tight budget’ with ‘limited resources’ in the Northern Region.
“With limited state and federal funding, the ALS must direct existing service delivery resources into areas with growing needs from local Aboriginal communities, like Coffs Harbour.”
Chair Smith also clarified inaccurate media reports about the use of audio-visual links (AVL) at Grafton Correctional Centre, saying the ALS is not using AVL technology as a substitute for its own service delivery.