A surge in demand has brought a vital legal service for First Nations people back to the region after a decades-long hiatus.
The Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service has opened its doors in Warrnambool's Kepler Street where a client support officer, senior criminal lawyer and a senior Aboriginal families lawyer will be permanently based.
VALS chief executive officer and Yorta Yorta woman Nerita Waight said the staff would navigate clients through "difficult" situations.
"It's been several decades since we had a dedicated presence in the Barwon South West region and we are delighted to be back," Ms Waight said.
"Across the state, we have seen a large increase in demand for our services and it's the same in the Warrnambool region.
"The COVID-19 pandemic has left people with a lot of financial stress and complications in their lives. High quality legal services can help them get out of those situations before they get worse.
"Victoria's law and order agenda is also leading to more people being caught up in the legal system. The Warrnambool office will help to get our people out of the legal system and keep them out."
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Client support officer and Wiradjuri man Mark Messer said the community had been welcoming.
"The office opening was so great to be a part of," Mr Messer said.
"I think we had over 50 people come to the opening, and I got to meet a lot of new people. The community have been so welcoming, particularly Uncle Locky Eccles."
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