Aboriginal Legal Service to withdraw its services from Karratha and Roebourne

It is quite unusual to come across an incidence where a public legal service discontinues its offerings to common masses. Recently, a service in Australia has been the part of such incidence, leaving the legal-representation seekers helpless. The Aboriginal Legal Service has decided to pull off its legal service out of Karratha and Roebourne.

Aboriginal Legal Service is an Aboriginal community organization that has been offering legal services in Australia since 1970. The organization supported Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander women, men and children. The agency worked in the legal areas of family law, children law and children’s care and protection law.

In the recent news published on August 11, 2015, Aboriginal Legal Service officially declared to withdraw their services from Karratha and Roebourne. The withdrawal will take effect from 18th August, 2015. It is the same date on which the Karratha Magistrates Court will increase its sitting days by twice per month. The ALS organization has already started sending letters to existing clients notifying that they can no longer represent them legally.

Clients approaching other lawyers

As soon as the news spread, the lawyers in Karratha are reporting that clients of ALS are approaching them for legal aids. General Michael Mischin, the state attorney, addressed media that this move of ALS will put extra pressure on Legal Aid.

Adam Oswald, a renowned Kerratha lawyer said that various people have approached him complaining that they have recently received letters from ALS about the discontinuation of their service. In a statement, the lawyer said “it is a stressful period of time for people who found out that they are going for a trial and now all of a sudden will need to hire another legal representation”. While Adam managed to sort out the problems of the clients that approached him, he still remains concerned about other helpless legal-representation seekers. He also showed his concern saying that people who used to be looked after by ALS will be in deep trouble. He addressed the move as a regrettable one.

Needless to say, the move is supposed to place pressure on Legal Aid. WA will have to use its state-funds to represent clients who were seeking legal help from ALS earlier. If facts are to be believed, around 80 percent of Legal Aid WA’s clients in Pilbara constitute Aboriginal people.

ALS questions people’s approach to legal help

The chief executive of Aboriginal Law Service, Mary Cowley has questioned whether people will be ready to access Legal Aid or not. She said that the question is significant given the number of Aboriginal people being incarnated.

The ALS constitutes of 3 lawyers based in South Hedland who cover the areas of Pilbara. They also cover the circuit of Magistrate Dean Potter, with a court list describing as much as 100 people per day. The withdrawal of ALS will not be perfectly able to cover Potter’s circuit and the extra sittings week of Kerratha at the same time.

Mischin also said that the ALS funding has eroded in the last few years. She feels that now, the state does not have the capacity to take responsibility of this Commonwealth.

Response of Aboriginals

Aboriginal people expressed their concern on this move. They felt bad as indigenous people would no longer be able to receive specialized legal representation. This move will also allow aboriginal people to explore legal services around them, rather than going to ALS for legal aid.

However, since they never looked around, they might not feel comfortable in going to private services or Legal Aid. An Ngarluma native Belinda Chernside from Roebourne area expressed her grief saying that it is a time of crisis and the service should have been continued for longer. As a supportive gesture, ALS declared that they will always be ready to help clients as their lawyers know the backgrounds of the clients.

About ALS

The ALS is totally-funded organization of Federal Government. The organization achieved milestones in serving Aboriginal people throughout Australia. Working through 23 offices and 185 staff (constituting both Aboriginal and non-aboriginal people). The service area covers NSW and AST. It worked towards the goal of brining justice to Aboriginal people and community.

Each region covered by ASL was managed by a Regional Manager reporting directly to Regional Manager. The protection law and family law practice used to be operated with Principal Legal officer who also used to report to Regional Manager. The executive staff of ASL included a Senior Management Team of ASL along with Chief legal officer, Chief Executive Officer and Chief Financial Officer.


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