A model of self-determination
In 1973, the ALS voted into office its first full Aboriginal Council, putting into practice the values and aspirations of the members of the ALS for Aboriginal self-determination.
The involvement of Aboriginal people in both management and service delivery was critical to tailoring the ALS to the needs of Aboriginal communities. Women and men who were leaders in their own communities were elected as field officers and the same resourcing model applied to staff.
What started as a single shop-front office in Redfern spread throughout the rest of the state. By 1974 there was an ALS in every state and territory throughout Australia. The strength of our model was in community control as well as the role of Aboriginal field officers as a 'go-between', offering cultural support and bridging the gaps between solicitors, magistrates and clients. This approach remains central to teh ALS today.
In 1975, more regional ALS offices opened their doors; ensuring culturally appropriate services like the first office by installing members of the Boards from local Aboriginal communities in Nowra and Brewarrina respectively.
By the late 1970s, breakaway legal services for Aboriginal people formed in southern and western NSW. Their successful operation depended largely on local Aboriginal communities and individuals having oversight as well as being represented in service management.
Later on in 1980, the ALS' unique model of service delivery - of field officers working side by side with lawyers - was officially recognised and applauded in the 'Ruddock Report', which noted that "the practice of providing advice and assistance in welfare matters by the ALS was well-founded, particularly when matters are connected to legal problems."