The new initiative ensures Aboriginal people have access to culturally appropriate legal assistance
Attorney General Mark Dreyfus has announced $21m in additional funding for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services (ATSILS) to help improve access to justice for First Nations people.
Dreyfus said the government acknowledges the vital role played by ATSILS in providing culturally appropriate and safe legal assistance to First Nations people. To support the increasing demands faced by ATSILS due to the rising cost of providing critical front-line services, the government has allocated $21m in one-off additional funding from the resources of the Attorney-General's Department.
The additional funding will be provided through the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services (NATSILS), the peak body representing the sector. NATSILS will distribute the funds to ATSILS operating in each state and territory, ensuring ongoing access to justice for First Nations people.
This new funding is in addition to the over $440m already committed under the National Legal Assistance Partnership specifically dedicated to ATSILS. It builds upon the $99m First Nations Justice Package announced in October 2022 by the Attorney General and the Minister for Indigenous Australians Linda Burney. The package included the following:
- $13.5m in additional funding to ATSILS to increase their capacity to provide culturally appropriate legal assistance in coronial inquiries; and
- $1m to build greater capacity in NATSILS to provide leadership across the Indigenous legal sector.
Dreyfus said the new funding highlights the government's ongoing commitment to working collaboratively with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to achieve improved justice outcomes. It aligns with targets 10 and 11 of the National Agreement on Closing the Gap, which aims to eliminate disparities and ensure equitable access to justice for Indigenous peoples.
Dreyfus further noted that the additional funding demonstrates the government's recognition of the critical importance of ATSILS and their role in supporting First Nations individuals through culturally appropriate and safe legal assistance.