06 September 2013

MEDIA STATEMENT

06 September 2013

COALITION’S PROPOSED CUTS ‘A HEARTLESS DECISION’

Says ALSWA  

The Aboriginal Legal Service of Western Australia (ALSWA) is outraged over the proposed cuts should the Abbott government win power at the Federal Election.

In an announcement made late in their campaign, the Coalition have revealed that cuts worth $42 million will be made under “Further Coalition Savings” as part of reprioritising the Indigenous Policy Reform Program, and that it plans to cut funding to Indigenous legal aid services around the country by 20 percent if elected.

ALSWA, like other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services, is funded exclusively through the Australian Government Attorney-General’s Department.

Acting CEO of ALSWA, Mr. John Bedford said that the cuts would have a disastrous effect on the most vulnerable and disadvantaged within our community.

“This is a heartless decision.  It will force ALSWA to make cuts to its services, and in particular, ALSWA’s capacity to advise and represent Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people facing criminal charges will be severely affected.  This will inevitably result in more Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people being unrepresented in court and increasing the numbers in this state’s already over populated prisons” said Mr. Bedford.

ALSWA said that this decision comes at a time when the WA State Government has finally acknowledged the need to reduce the numbers of Aboriginal people especially children, in custody.

“These cuts will have the opposite effect and will also place enormous pressure an on already stretched justice system, which begs the question – if ALSWA can’t help Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, who will?

It is obvious that the Coalition doesn’t care too much about the answer to that question.