15 January 2013
denniseggingtonMEDIA STATEMENT

15January 2013

ALSWA welcomes establishment of new family violence legal service

The Aboriginal Legal Service of Western Australia (ALSWA) has welcomed the State Government’s announcement that it will establish a new metropolitan legal service for Aboriginal victims of family violence.

ALSWA CEO, Dennis Eggington, said that it was an overdue acknowledgment by the State Government of its shared responsibility to fund legal services for Aboriginal people in Western Australia.

“For too long, the funding of dedicated Aboriginal legal services has been used as a political football between State and Federal governments, to the ultimate detriment of Aboriginal people

“ALSWA is very pleased that the Barnett Government has finally moved away from this cost-shifting mindset, and we look forward to discussing new funding opportunities with the Attorney General in the coming months.”

Mr Eggington said that while ALSWA supported the new legal service, it was disappointing that the State Government had failed to consult with ALSWA in developing the proposal.

“It is essential that the new legal service provides a culturally secure service for Aboriginal victims. We hope that the State Government has at least consulted with other key groups in the family violence sector, who are an important source of expertise in this complex area,” Mr Eggington said.

“ALSWA looks forward to working closely with the State Government to ensure that the new legal service is well designed and culturally appropriate for Aboriginal victims of family violence.”

For decades, ALSWA has struggled to manage the conflict of interest it has faced in providing legal assistance to opposing parties in family violence matters.

“Until now, ALSWA’s only option has been to refer the other party – in most cases, the victim – to other legal service providers, such as Legal Aid; however, we have done so with heavy hearts,” Mr Eggington said.

“The simple fact is that no other legal service provider in Western Australia can match the 40 years of culturally relevant experience that ALSWA offers Aboriginal people.

“Cultural awareness is particularly important in family violence matters, where an understanding of the unique dynamics of Aboriginal families is paramount.

“This new dedicated legal service for Aboriginal victims of family violence will help fill that gap.”