More cuts to Aboriginal legal aid funding

Issue 

Aboriginal legal aid services are to have their funding cut for the 13th year in a row, despite an election promise by the ALP that a federal Labor government would increase their funding, Trevor Christian, the director of the NSW/ACT Aboriginal Legal Aid Service, told the March 31 Sydney Morning Herald.

He said that in NSW and the ACT, a hotline for Aboriginal people in police custody could be gone by June, as could domestic violence counsellors and representation at Supreme Court bail hearings and parole board hearings. The hotline receives between 200 and 300 calls a week and was a recommendation of the 1991 royal commission into Aboriginal deaths in custody. NSW requires police to call the ALAS whenever an Indigenous person is arrested.

A 2004 Senate report and a 2003 Office of Evaluation and Audit Report both found there was an annual nationwide shortfall of funding for Aboriginal legal aid of about $25 million.

A "funding freeze" under the 1996-2007 Howard Coalition government has meant a 40% cut in real funding to Aboriginal legal aid services. Indigenous imprisonment rates had risen by 31.9% since 2000. Indigenous Australians comprise 2% of the general population, but a quarter of the prison population.

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