Indigenous legal aid service cut fears 

THE head of Victoria’s only Aboriginal legal service is warning of job cuts and a weakened ability to tackle problems like the ice epidemic now causing a surge of court appearances in the south-west. 

Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service (VALS) chief executive Wayne Muir told The Standard Commonwealth funding cuts could leave it with fewer solicitors and unable to produce special reports on issues facing the Aboriginal community. 

A VALS submission to the state government recently stated that up to 85 per cent of its south-west clients are on methamphetamine ice when committing offences. 

The funding that allowed the submission would be removed under the Abbott government’s plan to slash about $13 million in indigenous legal service funding over four years, Mr Muir said. 

Initial cuts were placed at $42 million but were scaled back. 

“We know the overall figure is $13 million and for us that’s going to be $180,000 each year over three years — but that’s only a rough estimate but it’s roughly three positions,” Mr Muir said. 

“These cuts will be two-fold— we won’t be able to draw attention to this crisis. The secondary impact is on the availability of lawyer services. The potential is that we may have to withdraw from some regions or limit services.” 

Speaking on the VALS’s recent submission, Mr Muir said regional Aboriginal corporations such as Kirrae Health Services in Framlingham and Winda Mara in Heywood needed to be resourced to provide two-year detoxification programs for recovering addicts as well as follow-up programs. 

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