Law Council cheers proposed $107m funding for First Nations justice

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The Law Council of Australia applauds the $107m package proposed by Labor to address the systemic disadvantage in the justice system experienced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

The funding is a significant step in addressing what Arthur Moses SC, Law Council president, says is a “national disgrace.”

“The over-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men, women and children in our justice system is not just alarming – it is a national disgrace,” he said. “The ALP’s package is a much-needed funding boost. Importantly, it also focuses on creating change through justice reinvestment programs and the inclusion of Closing the Gap justice targets.”

The package adds $40m over four years to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services (ATSILS); $21.75m over four years for justice reinvestment programs; and $60m for First Nations family violence services. Labor also committed to working with states and territories to adopt the Council of Australian Government’s Closing the Gap justice target frameworks.

“The Law Council’s Justice Project Final Report highlighted the dire state of access to justice for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and included a raft of recommendations to help resolve significant barriers to justice,” Moses said. “These included a focus on justice reinvestment, increased legal assistance funding, adoption of Closing the Gap targets, early intervention and prevention strategies and the adoption of community-led culturally appropriate services for First Nations people.”

He said that the Law Council will hold Labor to account if they are elected to government to ensure commitments are “implemented without delay.”

“We also must remember that much more needs to be done to address increasing levels of disadvantage experienced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people,” Moses said. “To this end, we look forward to working with all sides of politics including the coalition to address this national tragedy and ensure justice for all Australians. Justice for First Nations Peoples should never be a partisan issue. This only creates division and our leaders need to ensure that this does not happen.”

The Law Council also welcomed the party’s announcement of a proposed $660m package to address family violence. The proposal will boost resources for early intervention, frontline services and emergency accommodation, and legal services, the council said.