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Abbott’s legal aid cuts a bad sign for justice in WA

Media Release
Rachel Siewert 17 Dec 2013

More Aboriginal Australians will end up in jail because of the Abbott Government's cuts to indigenous legal aid, say the Australian Greens.

Spokesperson on legal affairs Senator Penny Wright said the Coalition's decision to cut $9m from legal services showed appalling lack of concern about shameful over-incarceration of Aboriginal people.

"More than one in four prisoners are Aboriginal, despite making up only a fraction of our population. Too many are in jail because of inadequate legal understanding and representation," Senator Wright said.

"As government officials told me in estimates just last month, there is no way to separate out front-line legal assistance services from government cuts. Cutting legal aid funding is a cruel and senseless decision which will see more families torn apart and more children lost to the revolving door of incarceration," said Senator Wright.

WA Senator Rachel Siewert, Australian Greens spokesperson on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Issues said today that the cut would compound problems that Aboriginal people have accessing justice in WA.

"Western Australia has notoriously high incarceration rates for Aboriginal people," Senator Siewert said today.

"Just last week the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare's ‘Youth detention population in Australia 2013' report found that in the June quarter of 2013, the ratio of Aboriginal to non-Aboriginal youth aged 10-17 in detention in WA was 60 to 1.

"Legal aid funding is crucial for ensuring people have proper access to justice and equality, but these cuts undermine this principal.

"Properly resourced Legal Aid services and a commitment to Justice Reinvestment is necessary to ensure proper assess to justice and to deliver a community focused approach to help families, address the causes of crime and divert potential offenders," Senator Siewert concluded.

 

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