Open letter penned to Prime Minister on funding cuts

Reconciliation Australia has joined with 25 other prominent organisations in an open letter to the Australian Prime Minister requesting that he urgently reverse the proposed funding cuts to legal assistance services under the Attorney General’s portfolio.

A range of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services (ATSILS), including its peak body National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services (NATSILS), Community Legal Centres (CLC), and the Legal Aid Commissions (LAC) have suffered funding cuts.

We have a deeply held shared concern about the effect that funding cuts will have on the delivery of frontline legal services to society’s most vulnerable members, particularly Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, including women and children. Already, legal services have had to reduce or withdraw key services due to proposed funding cuts and the associated uncertainty.

This has created extreme difficulty for these organisations and their staff, and most importantly, for the clients and communities they serve.

We are further concerned that these cuts come at a time of crisis levels of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander incarceration, ever-increasing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth detention, high rates of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in the child protection system and growing rates of family violence.

Without properly funded legal services, more Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people will be improperly represented in courts, and unable to access legal assistance and justice.

Reconciliation Australia also calls upon the Government to take heed of the Productivity Commission’s Access to Justice Arrangements report which called for a further $200m investment into the legal assistance sector, including the Family Violence Prevention Legal Services.

Strong leadership is needed on this issue immediately, if we are to ensure Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have access to justice, so we can move forward together towards a just, equitable and reconciled Australia.

Paul House with gum leaves and smoke
Paul Girrawah House

Paul Girrawah House has multiple First Nation ancestries from the South-East Canberra region, including the Ngambri-Ngurmal (Walgalu), Pajong (Gundungurra), Wallabollooa (Ngunnawal) and Erambie/Brungle (Wiradyuri) family groups.

Paul acknowledges his diverse First Nation history, he particularly identifies as a descendant of Onyong aka Jindoomang from Weereewaa (Lake George) and Henry ‘Black Harry’ Williams from Namadgi who were both multilingual, essentially Walgalu-Ngunnawal-Wiradjuri speaking warriors and Ngunnawal–Wallaballooa man William Lane aka ‘Billy the Bull’ - Murrjinille.

Paul was born at the old Canberra hospital in the centre of his ancestral country and strongly acknowledges his First Nation matriarch ancestors, in particular his mother Dr Aunty Matilda House-Williams and grandmother, Ms Pearl Simpson-Wedge.

Paul completed a Bachelor of Community Management from Macquarie University, and Graduate Certificate in Wiradjuri Language, Culture and Heritage and Management from CSU.

Paul provided the Welcome to Country for the 47th Opening of Federal Parliament in 2022. Paul is Board Director, Ngambri Local Aboriginal Land Council, Member Indigenous Reference Group, National Museum of Australia and Australian Government Voice Referendum Engagement Group.  

Paul works on country with the ANU, First Nations Portfolio as a Senior Community Engagement Officer

Acknowledgement of Country

Reconciliation Australia acknowledges Traditional Owners of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing  connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures; and to Elders past and present. 

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples should be aware that this website contains images or names of people who have passed away.

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