30 March 2015 | General Interest
The Australian Government has reversed its decision to drastically cut Aboriginal legal services, in an announcement made by Attorney-General George Brandis on 26 March.
The decision not to proceed with cuts to domestic violence and Indigenous legal services was made as a joint announcement from Mr Brandis and the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Women, Michaelia Cash.
This turnaround will restore $25.5 million to legal aid commissions, community legal centres, and Indigenous legal services providers. Of that figure, $11.5 million will support Indigenous legal assistance over the next two years.
Mr Brandis said that the decision to reverse the cuts were necessary, as the Government needs to protect “the most vulnerable people in our community”.
“The decision announced today…will have…a particular impact on the issue of the way the Commonwealth assists the states in responding to the challenges of domestic violence and on the Indigenous legal sector,” Mr Brandis said.
You can read more details from the announcement in the joint media release from Mr Brandis and Ms Cash.
The National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services (NATSILS) welcomed the announcement, saying the Government’s reversal would enable the peak body to continue to provide crucial services to the most vulnerable members of society.
“We are thrilled to have received the news that the Abbott government has taken the responsible step of reversing the announced cuts to legal assistance services,” said NATSILS Chairperson Shane Duffy.
“The services provided by our members are absolutely critical to assisting the most vulnerable members of society and we are very pleased that the government has recognised the value of these services.
“The announcement means that we can get on with what we do best, which is providing culturally competent legal services to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.
“However, while the announcement today is welcomed, the government also needs to know that the funding provided is not enough to meet the legal needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. The Productivity Commission’s recent report said $200 million more was required just to address urgent need and we call upon the government to take heed of this recommendation.”
In 2014 the Productivity Commission on Access to Justice Arrangements recommended that, along with a reversal of cuts, an additional $200 million be added to the legal assistance sector to address urgent need across the country.
Mr Duffy took the opportunity to thank organisations within the legal and community services sectors for their resolute support.
To read more of Mr Duffy’s statement download the media release via the NATSILS website.