Mr GUYULA to ATTORNEY-GENERAL and JUSTICE
What is the NT Government doing to improve legal aid for Territorians, particularly Indigenous Territorians, especially in locations away from Darwin like my electorate, Nhulunbuy.
Madam Speaker, I thank the Member for Nhulunbuy for his question, following on from his questions yesterday about acknowledging the high rates of Indigenous incarceration.
The question the member has asked fits with the federal government. It provides the funding for legal aid. Over the last couple of years we have seen lobbying from all quarters on the cuts to legal aid at a national level. We need to make sure that when people are, sadly, involved in the justice system, they have representation so the system can work.
It has been very disappointing. The last federal Labor government, under Mark Dreyfus, ensured there was funding, but we have seen significant cuts. It is concerning. When I attended the Police and Attorney-Generals’ Ministerial Council Meeting in Melbourne last year it was on the agenda. The states and territories are very concerned about funding agreements that will come to an end in July this year. It is an issue that will have an impact in the Northern Territory because we rely on our community-based legal representation sector to provide that work for many Territorians.
This government is concerned about it, and we have spoken about it at the national level. The funding comes from the federal government, which has flagged changes to the funding agreement that was put in place about five or six years. That is concerning.
I would be happy to provide the member with a briefing, and I suggest he contacts the federal representatives about this important issue.
When we Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are 14 times more likely to be incarcerated—we are concerned. Legal aid services provide vital representation, not just in our urban centres but across the Northern Territory. These organisations travel to provide that important service to people in remote communities. The government, along with other states and territories, is highly concerned about and has been lobbying the government about. I thank the honourable member for the question.
See connecting Questions on 15/02/17