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Legal service defends relocation decision

Legal service defends relocation decision

Corrs Harbour

An Australian legal service organisation has clarified its reasoning in deciding to relocate its hub from the Clarence Valley area, following questions about the move.

Aboriginal Legal Service (NSW/ACT) has released a statement, saying that its opening of an office in Coffs Harbour will not affect the current service delivery of the organisation and it will continue to provide services to Grafton and Maclean Court and the community at large.

“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,” said ALS chair Bunja Smith.

“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.

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“... 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.”

Mr Smith noted that new location at the Coffs Harbour Justice Precinct is the largest in regional NSW, boasting five courtrooms with each installing video conference technology, enabling it 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 Community Services also having their main operations in Coffs Harbour,” Mr Smith added.

“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.”

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