The transfer of Aboriginal legal services into Tasmanian hands has resulted in the reestablishment of a 24-hour on-call legal phone line for the first time in five years, the board has confirmed.
The new service is known as the Tasmanian Aboriginal Legal Service, utilising the same solicitors based in Launceston and Hobart under the previous service.
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Board member John Clark – of the Flinders Island Aboriginal Association – said it was untrue to state that the organisations had no experience in delivering these services, and he believed it would enable a stronger level of local legal representation for Aboriginal Tasmanians.
“The things we put in place and were adopted by VALS were really positive. So if someone goes to court on Flinders Island or anywhere else, the lawyer comes here, and they’ve got that support from members of their own community so it makes sense,” Mr Clark said.
“There’s a 24/7 1800 number as well.
“We have experience in dealing with government and government departments.”
Last week, Prime Minister Scott Morrison released details of 16 targets in an overhauled Closing the Gap plan, including attempts to address rates of Aboriginal imprisonment.
Mr Clark said the Aboriginal organisations were already seeking to address this through their work in local communities.
“Aboriginal organisations and individual communities that live around the state are doing that all the time. They’re involved at grassroots levels,” he said.
In 2015, Attorney-General George Brandis announced that Aboriginal legal services would be taken away from the TAC and transferred to VALS in Melbourne, which established the Tasmanian Aboriginal Community Legal Service.
After five years, a new funding arrangement was set up with the Commonwealth to allow the service to be fully Tasmania-based again.
The number for the legal service is 1800 595 162.