How does ALSWA work?

The Aboriginal Legal Service of Western Australia (Inc.) (ALSWA) provides legal representation and support services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in Western Australia, including advocating in policy and law reform in submissions, at conferences and in the media.

ALSWA is funded by the Australian Government, through the Commonwealth Attorney General’s Department. The contracts between ALSWA and the Australian Government determine what work ALSWA must do.

The “boss” of ALSWA is the Executive Committee, made up of Aboriginal peoples from throughout Western Australia. Representing different regions of the State, each member is elected by his or her local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community. You can apply to vote, or to nominate yourself for the Executive Committee, through your local ALSWA office.

ALSWA has a Senior Management Team, made up of the Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Executive Officer (EO) and  the Director of Legal Services (DLS) who are responsible for making ALSWA function properly.

As well as the Perth office there are 12 regional ALSWA offices located in Albany, Broome, Bunbury, Carnarvon,  Fitzroy Crossing, Geraldton, Halls Creek, Kalgoorlie, Kununurra,  Meekatharra, Northam and South Hedland.

These offices provide ALSWA criminal law, family law and civil and human rights law work in the country and have access to the resources of the Perth office as required.

There are also administrative staff in different roles, with all staff working together to make sure that the work done by ALSWA runs smoothly.

ALSWA has been striving for justice for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in Western Australia for over 30 years.

Criminal law

ALSWA provides a duty service at many metropolitan and country courts, which includes bail hearings, remands and pleas. ALSWA also provides representation in the District and Supreme Courts

There is a legal advice service during weekday office hours. In emergencies, legal advice can also be provided by phone after hours.

Lawyers and Court Officers visit prison and juvenile detention centres to provide prisoners with legal advice and also represent people in trials or appeals.

ALSWA criminal law staff make sure the criminal courts know about cultural matters that apply, such as communication styles and tribal punishment.

Family law

ALSWA provides legal advice during weekday office hours for Family Law issues about children. Lawyers also represent parents in protection proceedings in the Children’s Courts throughout WA and at times, in the Family Court of WA about parenting issues.

ALSWA family law staff make sure courts that deal with family law and protection issues know about cultural matters that apply, such as communication styles, how children are raised, and the importance of children and family in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures.

Civil law and Human Rights

ALSWA provides legal advice in a wide range of civil law and human rights matters, including discrimination, compensation for injury, police complaints and wills. ALSWA also assists with enquires about the Stolen Generation and Stolen Wages. During weekday office hours our lawyers take instructions and manage files.

PLEASE NOTE: Work in Criminal, Family, Civil and Human Rights Law can only be done if the case fits within ALSWA’s contract with the Australian Government and if ALSWA has staff available to help. If your case is not this type, ALSWA staff will refer you to another service for help.

Law and Advocacy

The Law and Advocacy Unit advocates for improved social justice outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples living in WA through policy and law reform, community legal education, media, human rights and other project activities funded by the Commonwealth Attorney-General’s Department.

Services for Prisoners

ALSWA’s Law and Advocacy Unit is funded to provide support to incarcerated Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults and juveniles in Western Australia. This includes visiting men, women and children in prisons and juvenile detention centres, assisting their families by developing relationships with the Department of Corrective Services staff and external agencies to assist in the through care of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander prisoners in their integration from prison to the community.

Community Legal Education and Law Reform

ALSWA’s Law and Advocacy Unit is funded to advise Government and mainstream organisations about law and justice issues that affect Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples living in Western Australia. Through this ALSWA works towards advancing the legal rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples at local, state, national and international levels. This includes writing policy submissions, issuing press releases, conducting community legal education and empowering Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders in Western Australia through human rights and advocacy training.