26 April 2017
The Federal Government’s announcement to overturn the proposed $16.7 million in cuts to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services (ATSILS) until 2019-20 comes as a huge relief to the Aboriginal Legal Service of WA Limited (ALSWA).
ALSWA CEO Dennis Eggington said that if the cuts gone ahead, frontline services would definitely have been affected, staff numbers reduced and some of ALSWA’s thirteen offices closed.
“With the funding uncertainty that we’ve faced in recent years, it has been a very trying time for our staff not knowing whether their jobs were secure or not. We already operate with minimal staff with huge caseloads, so to have this further reduced would have been disastrous for community members accessing our services”.
Mr. Eggington said that no other legal service in Western Australia was equipped to cope with the overwhelmingly high numbers of Aboriginal people within the state’s criminal justice system. “It’s not just the high demand on services, its ensuring that there is an equitable service that understands the diverse complexities that often accompany Aboriginal people and the law. Without an Aboriginal Legal Service, many of this state’s most disadvantaged peoples wouldn’t seek legal assistance at all”.
The CEO praised the organisations’ staff for their ongoing loyalty and commitment to ‘getting the job done’ despite the uncertainty faced in the past. “This is testament to the calibre of people who choose to work in an organisation that is committed to access to justice and making a difference in the lives of people who need it most”.
ALSWA congratulates the Government on their decision to overturn the proposed cuts and looks forward to an ongoing positive and collaborative relationship which ensures that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples continue to have access to a professional and Culturally suitable service which meets the needs of the ever expanding client base requiring legal support and representation.
ALSWA Media Enquiries to Jodi Hoffmann 0428 948 610 or firstname.lastname@example.org