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Thorpe calls on Labor to commit to legal funding, following damning report

Senator Lidia Thorpe is calling on the Albanese Labor government to commit to urgent increases to funding for legal services, following a damning report into the state of the sector released yesterday. 

The Independent Review of the National Legal Assistance Partnership (NLAP) found that current funding is far below what is needed for critical legal assistance services to meet growing demand. 

It made 39 recommendations for significantly increased funding and changes to the way funding is delivered. 

Thorpe has criticised the Attorney General Mark Dreyfus after he failed yesterday to indicate government support for those recommendations, or indicate which of the recommendations, if any, government would adopt.

Thorpe has been previously critical of the government's handling of this report, accusing the Attorney General of concealing it to avoid scrutiny until after the May budget was announced.

The May budget allocated $41.4 million to legal assistance services, with just $15.4 million of that earmarked for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services sector, which was calling for $229 million in funding to meet increased demand and operational costs. 

This new report shows just how inadequate that budget allocation is, with recommendations calling for over $500 million in investment. 

The report also points out that without significant new investment, the government's closing the gap targets will continue to go backwards. 

 

Quotes attributable to Lidia Thorpe, Gunnai, Gunditjmara and Djab Wurrung independent Victorian Senator:

"This report lays the crisis bare, and shows how deep and damaging Labor’s neglect has been.

"If Labor is serious about closing the gap, they must invest far more into Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander legal services, and they must respect First Peoples right to self-determination by ensuring Aboriginal community-controlled organisations are well-resourced and central in decision making.

"The sector was hoping that with the release of this report, the AG would commit to its recommendations and lay out an implementation plan.

"But Dreyfus has said he needs to talk to the states.

"It’s the same bullshit answer he gave last time I asked about this. How much time does Labor want to waste on their talk-fest?

"It’s not good enough. Dreyfus has been sitting on this report for months, he’s had plenty of time to read it and talk to the states.

"And a number of its recommendations rehash the recommendations Deaths In Custody Royal Commission report – he’s had more than 30 years to read that.

"We can’t let Labor get away with ignoring yet another one of their own expensive reports.

"Countless people have been denied justice because of Labor’s neglect in this area. Women and children seeking safety from domestic violence have been turned away from life-saving services, people have been unjustly imprisoned, families have been denied justice for the deaths in custody of loved ones, and children have been wrongfully stolen from their mothers.

"Labor are happy to waste billions on more police and prisons, putting more pressure on these critical legal services that they refuse to fund properly. It's shameful.

"Access to properly funded and culturally safe legal services is a key recommendation from the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody, but over 30 years later the government still hasn’t committed to this.

"Now is the time. The Labor government has no excuse

"Dreyfus must show some leadership and commit his support for the recommendations of this report in full."

 

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