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Aboriginal legal services nationwide to hold public online forum today on funding crisis

Giovanni Torre -

Aboriginal legal services from across Australia are hosting an online town hall discussion today, Wednesday 3 May, on why the Federal Government needs to provide emergency assistance for Aboriginal legal services.

National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services chair Karly Warner told National Indigenous Times that an "unprecedented crisis is forcing us to freeze some services across multiple locations in regional Australia".

"This will lead to more Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in custody, more families being torn apart and more intergenerational trauma," she said.

"Together, we are calling for a $250 million emergency support package from the Federal Government to prevent these dire consequences.

"We have extended an invitation to the Attorney-General and Minister for Indigenous Australians to tell community what the Government is doing about this crisis and how they will ensure that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have access to culturally safe legal services."

The Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service noted that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people continue to be overpoliced and overincarcerated.

"A key reason for this is that our people do not have fair access to culturally safe services - especially Aboriginal legal services," the organisation said in a statement.

"Every Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander person who wants help from an Aboriginal legal service should be able to get that help.

"At VALS, we had to implement new client freezes twice in the last two years because demand for our services far outstrips the resources government gives us. During these service freezes, about 100 clients a month were unable to get help from VALS. They either had to use generalist services that are not culturally safe or go through the criminal legal system unrepresented."

VALS noted that while their services are operating normally now, they do not have enough resources "to support everyone who wants our help".

They noted that ostensibly "tough on crime" policies, the rising cost of living and the COVID pandemic have "put a huge strain on our communities".

"The Federal Government should be providing emergency funding to Aboriginal legal services so that we can help our people through these tough times."

The forum is online today.

Wednesday 3 May 2023 Time: 4pm AEST / 3:30pm ACST / 2pm AWST

Register HERE.

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