House of Representatives Committees

Contents


Foreword
Membership of the Committee (Fortieth Parliament)
Membership of the Committee (Forty First Parliament)
Terms of reference
List of abbreviations
List of recommendations

Foreword

The Committee’s inquiry into the provision of law and justice services to Indigenous Australians was adopted and commenced during the Fortieth Parliament when the Committee was under the capable stewardship of the then Chairman, Mr Bob Charles MP and Deputy Chair, Ms Tanya Plibersek MP.

I acknowledge the valuable and useful evidence gathered during this time and also the two on-going members of the Sectional Committee, the current Deputy Chair, Ms Sharon Grierson MP and Senator John Hogg who have provided an important continuity to the inquiry.

The Committee received 44 submissions and 51 exhibits from all sectors involved in the provision of legal services to Indigenous Australians. I would extend my appreciation to all of those who provided insight, from various perspectives, into the issues of the delivery of quality services in, at times, difficult circumstances.

The Committee took evidence in Canberra, Sydney, Darwin, Alice Springs, Adelaide, Dubbo, Yuendumu and Perth over the eight months of the inquiry. On behalf of the committee I thank those people who appeared for their time and the valuable insight into the issues.

On re-adopting the inquiry the new Sectional Committee undertook a brief but extensive program of evidence gathering that took us across Australia visiting metropolitan, regional and remote locations. This provided an opportunity for me, and other Committee members new to the inquiry to acquaint ourselves with issues raised by the terms of reference. The Committee felt it important to have heard the concerns in face to face forums with users of legal services as well as the providers at the coal face.

In particular, taking evidence enabled the Committee to explore community based responses to problems of Indigenous access to the law and justice system to a level not previously investigated.

As Chair of the Joint Committee of Public Accounts and Audit I take this opportunity to express my sincere appreciation to the community at Yuendumu who hosted a Committee visit. I was personally inspired by the determination of the community to sustain principles of customary law while acknowledging and operating within a common law framework. The outcomes achieved by the community, stand as a testament to the co-operation of the two systems.

I also thank the people who travelled from Ali-Curung to speak with the Committee during our visit to Yuendumu, officers of the Northern Territory Department of Justice who facilitated the Committee’s visit and the Northern Territory Attorney-General the Hon Peter Toyne MLA who attended.

Hearing evidence on matters such as the death of a young person in custody or specific instances of family violence was difficult for members and we appreciate the courage and candour of witnesses who related these tragic events. While stories relating personal tragedy are the most difficult evidence to receive, it is this evidence that serves to recall to us the importance of accessible law and justice services.

As a result of this inquiry into the provision of law and justice services to Indigenous Australians there are 17 recommendations for the government to consider. During the conduct of the inquiry and in the compilation of this report there were a diversity of views expressed by members of the committee, but it is important to note there was a consensus in the concerns raised in the recommendations of the committee.

Finally, I thank members of the secretariat, in particular Glenn Worthington, who sustained the inquiry across the two Parliaments

Bob Baldwin MP

Chair

Membership of the Committee (Fortieth Parliament)

Chair

Mr Bob Charles MP

 

 

Deputy Chair

   Ms Tanya Plibersek MP

 

 

Members

Senator Richard Colbatch (from 14/02/02 , until 25/05/03 )

Mr Steven Ciobo MP

 

Senator Stephen Conroy (from 5/02/03 , until 10/09/03 )

Mr John Cobb MP

 

Senator John Hogg (until 5/02/03 , from 10/09/03 )

Mr Petro Georgiou MP

 

Senator Gary Humphries (from 25/02/03 )

Ms Sharon Grierson MP

 

Senator Kate Lundy ( from 19/11/02 , until 1/04/04 )

Mr Alan Griffin MP

 

Senator Claire Moore (from 1/07/02 , until 19/11/02 and from 1/04/04

Ms Catherine King MP

 

Senator Andrew Murray

Mr Peter King MP

 

Senator Nigel Scullion

The Hon Alex Somlyay MP

 

Senator John Watson

 

Members of the Sectional Committee (Fortieth Parliament)

Chair

Mr Bob Charles MP

 

Deputy Chair

Ms Tanya Plibersek MP

 

Members

Senator John Hogg

Mr John Cobb MP

 

Senator Nigel Scullion

Ms Sharon Grierson MP

 

 

Mr Peter King MP

Committee Secretariat (Fortieth Parliament)

Secretary

Mr James Catchpole

Inquiry Secretary

Dr Glenn Worthington

Research Officers

Dr Marcus Hellyer
Mr Paul Shepherd
Mr Anthony Overs

Administrative Officers

Ms Maria Miniutti
Mr Patrick Pantano
Ms Jessica Butler

Membership of the Committee (Forty First Parliament)

Chair

Mr Bob Baldwin MP

 

 

Deputy Chair

Ms Sharon Grierson MP

 

 

Members

Senator John Hogg

Mr Russell Broadbent MP

 

Senator Gary Humphries

Ms Anna Burke MP

 

Senator Claire Moore

The Hon Jackie Kelly MP

 

Senator Andrew Murray

Ms Catherine King MP

 

Senator Nigel Scullion

Mr Andrew Laming MP

 

Senator John Watson

The Hon Alex Somlyay MP

 

 

Mr Lindsay Tanner MP

 

 

Mr Ken Ticehurst MP

Members of the Sectional Committee (Forty First Parliament)

Chair

Mr Bob Baldwin MP

 

 

Deputy Chair

Ms Sharon Grierson MP

 

 

Members

Senator John Hogg

Mr Russell Broadbent MP

 

Senator Claire Moore

Mr Ken Ticehurst MP

Committee Secretariat (Forty First Parliament)

Secretary

Mr Russell Chafer

Inquiry Secretary

Dr Glenn Worthington

Administrative Officer

Ms Penne Humphries

Terms of reference

As part of its statutory responsibility to examine reports from the Auditor-General, the Joint Committee of Public Accounts and Audit is expanding its review of Audit Report No. 13, 2003-2004, ATSIS Law and Justice Program —including its four components of Legal Aid; Law and Justice Advocacy; Family Violence Prevention; and Prevention, Diversion and Rehabilitation—to inquire and report on issues including:

  1. the distribution of the resources of Indigenous legal aid services between criminal, family and civil cases;
  2. the coordination of Indigenous legal aid services with Legal Aid Commissions through measures such as memoranda of understanding;
  3. the access for Indigenous women to Indigenous-specific legal services; and
  4. the ability of Law and Justice program components to recruit and retain expert staff.

The Committee will take into account the 2004 tender for Indigenous legal aid services.

List of abbreviations

AGD

Attorney-General’s Department

ALRM

Aboriginal Legal Rights Movement

ALSWA

Aboriginal Legal service of Western Australia

ANAO

Australian National Audit Office

ATSIC

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission

ATSILS

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Service

ATSIS

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Services

CAALAS

Central Australian Aboriginal Legal Aid Service

CAAFLU

Central Australian Aboriginal Family Legal Unit

CAWLS

Central Australian Women’s Legal Service

CLC

Community Legal Centre

DIMIA

Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs and Indigenous Affairs

FaCS

Department of Family and Community Services

FVPLS

Family Violence Prevention Legal Service

KALS

Kamilaroi Aboriginal Legal Service

LAC

Legal Aid Commission

LCA

Law Council of Australia

LSC

Legal Services Commission

MRALS

Many Rivers Aboriginal Legal Service

NAALAS

Northern Australian Aboriginal Legal Aid service

NACLC

National association of Community Legal Centres

NPY

Ngaanyatjarra Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjattjara

NSWLAC

Legal Aid Commission of New South Wales

NTLAC

Northern Territory Legal Aid Commission

OEA

Office of Evaluation and Audit

PBS

Portfolio Budget Statement

SEALS

South Eastern Aboriginal Legal Service

SRACLS

Sydney Regional Aboriginal Corporation Legal Service

TEWLS

Top End Women’s Legal Service

VALS

Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service

WALAC

Legal Aid Commission of Western Australia

WALS

Western Aboriginal Legal Service

Warndu

Warndu Wathilli-Carri Ngura Aboriginal Family Violence Legal Service

WLS

Women’s Legal Service

 

List of recommendations

Introduction

Recommendation 1

That the Attorney-General’s Department put in place measures to ensure that questions taken on notice to the Joint Committee of Public Accounts and Audit are either responded to within requested timeframes or that reasons are provided showing why responses will be delayed together with a proposed alternative date by which responses will be received by the Committee. (Para. 1.27)

Funding and Distribution of Resources in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services by Case Type

Recommendation 2

That based on available data and need, all future contracts between the Attorney-General’s Department and providers of services that are currently delivered by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services designate specific requirements of family, civil and criminal case loadings and provide adequate funding to meet these requirements. (Para 2.47)

Indigenous Women and Access to Legal Services

Recommendation 3

That the Attorney-General’s Department ensure that Family Violence Prevention Legal Services focus on the provision of family and civil law services to Indigenous Australians, particularly through the legal representation of clients. (Para. 3.85)

Recommendation 4

That the Attorney-General’s Department acknowledge that urban Indigenous populations also require family violence, family and civil law services and locate Family Violence Prevention Legal Services accordingly. (Para 3.87)

Recommendation 5

That the Attorney-General’s Department ensure that Indigenous men are provided full access to all Family Violence Prevention Legal Services. (Para. 3.93)

Retention of Expert Staff

Recommendation 6

That the Attorney-General’s Department, in consultation with National Legal Aid and the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services Secretariat, develop a comparative scale of remuneration between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services (ATSILSs) and Legal Aid Commissions and review funding of providers of services currently delivered by ATSILSs as appropriate. (Para. 4.54)

Recommendation 7

That the Department of Treasury grant Fringe Benefit Tax supplementation to Family Violence Prevention Legal Services. (Para. 4.56)

Recommendation 8

That the Attorney-General’s Department, in consultation with the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services Secretariat and National Legal Aid, develop and implement a formal exchange program whereby solicitors from providers of services that are currently delivered by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services and Legal Aid Commissions are afforded opportunities to work, for a specified period, within the other organisation. (Para. 4.59)

Recommendation 9

That the Department of Education, Science and Training, in consultation with the Attorney-General’s Department, the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Service Secretariat and the National Network of Indigenous Women’s Legal Services, explore the feasibility of implementing a system of bonded scholarships where successful applicants on being accepted to the bar are required to provide a specified period of service to a designated provider of services currently delivered by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services or Family Violence Prevention Legal Services. (Para. 4.62)

Recommendation 10

That the Department of Education, Science and Training ensure that places are available for the training and development of paralegal community support workers who are employed with providers of services that are currently delivered by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services and Family Violence Prevention Legal Services. (Para. 4.64)

Coordination of Legal Aid Services to Indigenous Australians

Recommendation 11

That the Attorney-General raise the matter of Commonwealth and state/territory funding for providers of services currently delivered by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services and Family Violence Prevention Legal Services with his state and territory counterparts with a view to gaining some level of state/territory contribution for these services. (Para. 5.39)

Recommendation 12

That the Attorney-General’s Department, in consultation with National Legal Aid and the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services Secretariat, develop and require providers of services currently delivered by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services (ATSILSs) to implement a memorandum of understanding between them and Legal Aid Commissions (LACs) that includes:

Recommendation 13

That the Attorney-General’s Department rationalise funding of Indigenous legal services by incorporating Indigenous Women’s Projects, that are currently administered through mainstream Community Legal Centres, into the Family Violence Prevention Legal Services program. (Para. 5.46)

Tendering Out of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services

Recommendation 14

That in centralising providers of services that are currently delivered by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services, the Attorney-General’s Department ensures that these services establish and maintain governance mechanisms that allow representation of and responsiveness to the views of the communities in their service area. (Para. 6.63)

Recommendation 15

That in awarding tender bids, the Attorney-General’s Department ensure that the current levels of paralegal community legal workers employed by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services is not diminished. (Para 6.65)

Recommendation 16

That the Australian National Audit Office conduct a performance audit of those areas of the Attorney-General Department’s responsible for funding of Family Violence Prevention Legal Services and Community Legal Centres with regard to the same matters covered in the Audit Report No. 13, 2003-2004. (Para. 6.67)

Recommendation 17

That the Australian National Audit Office conduct a performance audit of the Indigenous Law and Justice Branch of the Attorney-General’s Department at the mid way point of the tender contracts in each jurisdiction with a view to identifying difficulties and recommending improvements in administration and service delivery. (Para. 6.70)

Print Preliminary Pages (PDF 236KB) < - Report Home  : Chapter 1 - >

Back to top

Facebook LinkedIn Twitter Add | Email Print