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Aboriginal Legal Service renews calls for support amid crisis ahead of January 26

Jarred Cross -

The Aboriginal Legal Service NSW/ACT have launched a plea for donors to help continue their work.

On Thursday the service made a call for a minimum of 100 new monthly donors in the lead up to Invasion Day (January 26) to "keep fighting strong" in 2024.

Last year, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander legal services around the country made a joint-call for $250 million in funding to continue adequate operations.

It came as services froze and overworked staff felt the burden of high demand and inadequate support.

A $21 million injection from the federal government was labelled a "band-aid measure", with ALS NSW/ACT ceo and peak body NATSILS chair Karly Warner said it was a "good start…but it's simply not enough".

ALS NSW/ACT said last year they were "buoyed by the support of so many allies" around the unsuccessful Voice referendum, but needs remain to be met.

"It's crucial that our allies don't turn away now," the Service wrote in an email.

"At the Aboriginal Legal Service we're working hard every day, but we'll be honest: we're stretched beyond our means.

"For several months, we have been in crisis. The need for our help has sky-rocketed while government funding has lagged behind. As a not-for-profit, funding is our lifeline."

ALS NSW/ACT said their "fight for justice" is done on two fronts; providing legal services for First Nations people "on the street, in the courtroom, in police stations and prisons" and driving reforms, police accountability and Closing the Gap by building a fairer system going forward.

Chairperson Jason Allan said the service, like those in other jurisdictions around the country, have now reached a "precipice".

"We, like other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services (ATSILS) around the country, are facing an unprecedented crisis caused by the systemic undervaluing of ATSILS by governments," he told National Indigenous Times.

"This has been a long time coming, but now we have reached a precipice. We simply can't continue delivering more services with fewer resources.

"That makes it even more critical that our allies have our backs."

He said donors help provide services where government funding falls short, such as their Fines Clinic "which helps Aboriginal people to break free of fine debt".

"Importantly, our donors also support our advocacy and ensure that we all have a chance at accessing justice when we need it most – they hand us the megaphone to push for change and speak out against decisions of governments that harm people," Mr Allan said.

"The ALS will always be independent and fearless in our advocacy, and our donors help make that possible. Our donors are part of our movement, standing alongside Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the ongoing fight for justice."

ALS NSW/ACT are pushing for 100 new regular donors before January 26, which they said is not a day to celebrate, but an opportunity "to rally together for a future where everyone can thrive".


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