The Human Rights Law Centre condemns the Morrison Government’s decision to disband the Indigenous Legal Assistance Program – ignoring its own Government-commissioned report and 50 years of strong evidence.
The Program funds legal organisations to deliver specialist, culturally safe, legal assistance to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to address legal issues and assert their rights. Last week, an independent review commissioned by the Government recommended that the program be retained. However, the Government communicated its intention to abandon the Program as part of the 2019 Budget.
Ruth Barson, Legal Director at the Human Rights Law Centre, said that self-determination and a commitment to cultural safety should guide government decision making.
“The Morrison Government’s decision to walk away from a stand-alone funding program for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander legal organisations to address disadvantage is short-sighted and senseless. Community controlled services are critical to ending the racial discrimination that is at the heart of mass-imprisonment,” said Ms Barson.
“Aboriginal Legal Services provide a unique, culturally safe approach to people needing legal assistance, whether its stopping discrimination in housing, fighting racial bias in policing or holding dodgy companies to account when they seek to exploit people in remote communities. The Morrison Government has an obligation to protect Aboriginal peoples’ right to equal access to justice. This means preserving the Indigenous Legal Assistance Program,” said Ms Barson.