Senate debates

Wednesday, 10 May 2023

Questions without Notice

Aboriginal Deaths in Custody

2:41 pm

Photo of Murray WattMurray Watt (Queensland, Australian Labor Party, Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry) Share this | Hansard source

Thank you, Senator Thorpe, for this important question. The short answer, Senator Thorpe, is that we are funding Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander legal services. That's because we recognise the importance of funding those legal services as Aboriginal community controlled providers of culturally appropriate legal assistance services. As I think you are aware, the Attorney-General himself has very extensive experience, including in his pre-parliament career in working with those legal services, so I know that he is a strong believer in them.

On the funding that we're providing, we are of course continuing funding that already existed under the National Legal Assistance Partnership, which lasts until 2025. Over the life of the agreement, that partnership provides over $440 million over five years in baseline funding for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander legal services. Additionally, those legal services also receive over $11 million over five years in quarantined funding for the Justice Policy Partnership and expensive complex cases and coronial inquiries funding. There's additional funding that we're continuing outside of the partnership, particularly through the National Indigenous Australians Agency, which is providing over $48 million to legal services over a five year period. In fact our last budget, in October, provided $13.5 million over three years from 2022-23 in additional funding to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander legal services to provide culturally appropriate legal assistance for coronial processes and $1 million over three years from 2022-23 to build capacity and support leadership of the peak body for those legal services.

We recognise that there remain serious issues here, and it has been concerning to hear about service delivery freezes and closures across some of these legal services. Perhaps I can provide a bit more information about what we're doing on that front following your next question.


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