Senate debates

Wednesday, 10 May 2023

Questions without Notice: Take Note of Answers

Aboriginal Deaths In Custody

3:34 pm

Photo of Lidia ThorpeLidia Thorpe (Victoria, Australian Greens) Share this | Hansard source

I move:

That the Senate take note of the answer given by the Minister representing the Attorney-General (Senator Watt) to a question without notice I asked today relating to Aboriginal deaths in custody.

I'm aware that Aboriginal legal services receive government funding, including the funding provided in the October budget, but it's clearly not enough. First Nations legal services all over this country have called for emergency funding because they simply cannot meet the demand for legal support with the current funding levels. Factors like—listen hard!—bail laws, inflation rates, COVID, overpolicing and 'tough on crime' measures in our communities have grown the pressure over the years. Since 2018, demand for First Nations legal services has increased by up to 100 per cent, but core government funding has declined in real terms, so don't be gammon when you provide a gammon answer. This is why, in the lead-up to the budget, First Nations legal services around Australia called on the government to deliver a $250 million emergency support package to prevent imminent service freezes and unjust incarceration. Do you want the Voice to tell you that? Is that what you're waiting for? Yet the amount provided was zero.

Your and the Attorney-General's verbal appreciation is like whitesplaining, to be honest, that the services that these organisations are providing is worth nothing. It does not result in any actual support for the sector. All your nice words and all your waving the flag for blackfellas means nothing when you're still allowing deaths in custody and incarceration rates to go out of control. We need these services in order to have a chance of equal access to justice in the colonial criminal system that this place set up to kill us, to get rid of us and to incarcerate us. Many of our people who are locked up are on remand; they may never even be sentenced. But you want to take away the lawyers and the black legal services that support them and keep them out of the system.

People are being deprived of their freedom and their rights. The Aboriginal Legal Service in Victoria had to implement new client freezes. They're freezing services to our people on the ground in Victoria. On Monday, there'll be a number of other Aboriginal legal services in New South Wales shutting. What do you call that? A voice?

Question agreed to.


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