Following the financial uncertainty of recent times, the Aboriginal Legal Service of WA (ALSWA) has responded to the Federal Budget with mixed emotions.
“Yes, we’re absolutely elated that the Commonwealth has recognised our worth and renewed ALSWA’s funding for a further four years. This news comes as a huge relief to our management and staff because until recently, we had no commitment that we’d be funded beyond June 2016” said ALSWA CEO Dennis Eggington.
However, like other community legal providers around the country, ALSWA is still faced with impending cuts, which will see ALSWA lose approximately $800,000. “We’re the legal providers of last resort for many people, and there is a high demand on our services in criminal law, particularly in remote and regional Western Australia. I have no doubt that future cuts will affect our frontline services and the tragedy of that is that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people will be the biggest losers” said Mr. Eggington.
ALSWA is funded through the Commonwealth Attorney-General’s Department in Canberra and operates in a state where the imprisonment rate of Aboriginal people is seventeen times that of the non-Indigenous imprisonment rate.
“When you’re working in a system with stats like that, and operating in an environment which has no statewide interpreter service for Aboriginal peoples, the challenges are constant. Our work is extremely demanding and any future cuts will have dire consequences on ALSWA’s service delivery and clients, who represent some of the state’s most disadvantaged peoples”.
The CEO, who has lead ALSWA for over twenty years, said that the only silver lining was that management at least had some time to prepare for the funding cuts to minimise the impact on clients and staff. “It’s never easy to tackle, but, we are incredibly resilient and know that there is a groundswell of support for the vital work undertaken by Aboriginal Legal Services around the country” said Mr. Eggington.
ALSWA Media Enquiries to ALSWA Media Officer Jodi Hoffmann on 0428 948 610