FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
16 April 2019
Change the Record in partnership with the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services (NATSILS) has launched a petition calling on the next government to retain the only dedicated national program addressing disadvantage of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the justice system, the Indigenous Legal Assistance Program (ILAP).
The 2019-20 Federal Budget included the decision to roll the dedicated ILAP - which funds the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services (ATSILS) - into a single national mechanism, with Legal Aid Commissions and Community Legal Centres.
This move could have catastrophic impacts on Indigenous incarceration rates, according to Change the Record Coalition, which works to end the over-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the justice system.
Cheryl Axleby, co-chair of Change the Record and NATSILS, said:
“Our people are incarcerated at the highest rates in the world. This decision means walking away from 50 years of commitment to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services. ATSILS will no longer be able to guarantee culturally safe legal services with control going to states and territories. This will have a devastating impact on our communities.”
Damian Griffis, co-chair of Change the Record and CEO of the First Peoples Disability Network, said:
“The next Government must support community-controlled and culturally safe ATSILS which understand the intersectional discrimination that our people with disability face, by reinstating the ILAP. This decision to mainstream flies in the face of the independent review of ILAP.”
Arthur Moses SC, Law Council of Australia President, said:
“The Law Council believes the ILAP should be retained, in line with the independent review recommendation. ATSILS provide specialised and culturally appropriate legal services for some of the most marginalised people in our community. They need to maintain independence to effectively continue their vital work.”
Antoinette Braybrook, Convenor of the National Family Violence Legal Prevention Services Forum, said:
“We are very concerned with the proposal to roll Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services (ATSILS) into a single national mechanism for legal assistance funding. FVPLSs stand with ATSILS as specialist Aboriginal and Torres Islander services and call to overturn the decision and maintain a standalone specific program for ATSILS.”
Nassim Arrage, CEO of National Association of Community Legal Centres, said:
“We are concerned about the decision for the ATSILS funding to be subsumed by a single mechanism. This runs counter to the review of ATSILS released only weeks ago and it threatens the independence, self-determination and community control of ATSILS. This decision must be reversed”.
Tammy Solonec, Indigenous Rights Lead at Amnesty International, said:
“With Indigenous people so overrepresented in Australia’s prisons, services like this are vital. Indigenous communities are in the best position to guide culturally appropriate and safe justice solutions. The withdrawal of ILAP takes away some of that input and control and leads us further away from self-determination.”
Ruth Barson, Legal Director at the Human Rights Law Centre, Human Rights Law Centre, said:
“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.”
Ngarra Murray, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples' Program National Manager, Oxfam Australia said:
“The restructuring of government funding for legal services risks diminishing or losing the unique cultural safety role that ATSILS offer their clients. We are extremely dismayed stand-alone funding for legal services for Indigenous people is being abandoned.”
Change the Record are encouraging supporters to sign the “Justice By Us” petition on the website at https://changetherecord.org.au/justicebyus.