THE FEDERAL Government’s plan to terminate the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services and tender out a limited range of legal assistance to this group has been condemned by Shadow Attorney-General Nicola Roxon.
In place of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services (ATSILS), legal aid and community legal centres will be expected to take on the extra work without extra funding, Roxon and the Shadow Minister for Reconciliation and Indigenous Affairs, Senator Kerry O’Brien, claimed.
Senate Estimates heard last week that the Attorney-General’s Department is to take over responsibility for the tender process from 1 July this year. But Labor has called on the Government to halt the tender process and ensure ongoing services are guaranteed to all Indigenous Australians.
Twenty per cent of all male prisoners and 25 per cent of all female prisoners in this country are Indigenous, according to Roxon and O’Brien.
Additionally, Indigenous young Australians are 19 times more likely to be detained than non-Indigenous young people.
Indigenous people are also nearly six times more likely to be victims of domestic-related assault, and three times more likely to be victims of reported sexual assault.
Under the new tender processes there is no requirement for the services to be run or controlled by Indigenous community members, nor is it required for them to employ Indigenous staff. Private law firms are eligible to apply.
There will be restrictions to legal advice for Indigenous people with prior convictions. This is despite the fact that around 80 per cent of male Indigenous prisoners had previously been in prison, Roxon and O’Brien claimed.