All Media Documentss

Please see the attached media release from NATSILS, regarding the introduction of a National Children’s Commissioner.

NATSILS believe that the current model does not go far enough to protect and promote the rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children.

18 June 2012

MEDIA RELEASE

For immediate release

The Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service (VALS) has called on Attorney-General Nicola Roxon to refer the Stronger Futures and Social Security Legislation Amendment Bills to the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights.

With both Bills expected to pass through the Senate today, VALS CEO, Wayne Muir, is concerned that without the Committee’s application of human rights scrutiny to these Bills, the measures contained within them are destined to fail Government and the community.

“Today represents a missed opportunity for Government to display strong commitment to human rights in Australia. VALS has joined others in calling on the Attorney-General to utilise her powers of referral to the Committee. Those calls have gone unanswered,’ said Mr Muir.

In correspondence with the Attorney-General, Mr Muir has also noted the lack of evidence warranting the nation-wide rollout of income management.

“We are concerned that income management will exert significant control over people’s everyday lives. Given this intervention, a clear, comprehensive, independent and verifiable evidence base must exist in order to justify the passing and implementation of such policy. To date such evidence does not exist.

“Without this evidence, the rollout of income management to Greater Shepparton and other trial sites is unwarranted, unjustified and is imposed as a one-size-fits-all approach that does not act to address the underlying cause of vulnerability and disadvantage,” said Mr Muir.

VALS correspondence with the Attorney-General echoes the call of the regional representative for the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Matilda Bogner, who has also called for the Bills to be put before the Committee.

If passed, the Social Security Legislation Amendment Act will enable income management to apply in five trial sites as of 1 July 2012.

-Ends-

Louise Hicks – Acting Executive Officer Community Legal Education, Advocacy and Research Unit (CLEAR) Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service Co-operative Limited (VALS) T: 03 9418 5999 F: 03 9418 5900 lhicks@vals.org.au

26 March 2012

MEDIA RELEASE

The Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service Co-operative Limited (VALS) welcomes the release of the Sentencing Advisory Council (the Council) report for the review of the Victorian adult parole system. VALS CEO, Wayne Muir, applauds the Council’s position that the Adult Parole Board should not be exempt from applying the rules of procedural fairness.
‘This report sends a clear message to Government that the time has come for the functions of the Adult Parole Board to be brought in line with contemporary standards of transparent and accountable decision-making. ‘While Victoria administers higher rates of parole than other Australian jurisdictions, ensuring procedural fairness will encourage increased positive participation of prisoners in parole proceedings. This is critical to the rehabilitation and reintegration of prisoners and is therefore in the best interest of community safety where the likelihood of reoffending is reduced,’ said Mr. Muir. VALS’ Executive Officer of Legal Practice, Jill Prior, considers the Council’s recommendations to be generally positive, however remains concerned about the substantial discretion of Community Correctional Services in making decisions about parole breaches, especially in cases where there is no further offending. ‘In the context of what we know about the risks inherent in taking an Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander person into custody, our clients and their families have justifiable concerns about the manner and circumstances in which they are taken into custody following a breach of parole. ‘When our clients breach parole there is no opportunity for them to seek advice or judicial oversight or review of the decision placing them back in prison. As long as breach decision-making procedures are for the most part determined by Community Correctional Services, transparent process and procedural safeguards will remain ineffective in protecting both parolee and community,’ said Ms Prior.
In their submission to the Council, VALS highlighted the Government’s obligations to provide procedural fairness in the parole system in light of its commitments under the National Indigenous Law and Justice Framework (NILJF) and the Victorian Aboriginal Justice Agreement (AJA). ‘The NILJF and the AJA signal the Government’s commitment to eliminating Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander disadvantage in law and justice and minimise over-representation in the justice system by improving the accessibility, utilisation and efficacy within justice systems. ‘The NILF expressly states that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have a right to procedural fairness and we look forward to the Government’s response to the Council’s report in this regard,’ said Mr Muir.

-Ends-

For more information please contact Louise Hicks, Community Legal Education, Advocacy and Research Unit, Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service on 03 9418 5999 or lhicks@vals.org.au

National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services (NATSILS)

MEDIA RELEASE

22 March 2012
NATSILS appoint a new Deputy Chairperson

The National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Services (NATSILS) today announced Priscilla Collins as their new Deputy Chairperson.

“Priscilla comes with over 25 years experience as a strong and passionate advocate for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander affairs in Australia, working in the public sector as well as on a number of boards, committees and councils”.

“Priscilla is the CEO of the North Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency. Her expertise in Aboriginal Legal Services makes her an invaluable member of the NATSILS”, said Acting Chairperson Gerry Moore.

“I would like to thank Gerry Moore for his work as the Deputy Chairperson over the last 2 years, and I am very much looking forward to working closely with our Chairperson Shane Duffy and members of NATSILS”.

“NATSILS will continue to be the national voice for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services and law and justice reform in Australia”.

“As the NATSILS we are collectively committed to being the leader and principal representative on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander law and justice reform”, said Ms Collins.

For more information please contact Rachel O’Brien, NATSILS Legal Secretariat on 07 3025 3888 or 0451047792.

Congratulations to Wayne Bell a long-term member of the VALS team who was awarded an Order of Australia medal last week. He is a client service officer based in Heywood and works tirelessly towards achieving justice and improving legal outcomes and experiences for the Koori community. Please see the great article attached for an overview of some of the fantastic work Wayne does.

Representatives from a coalition of key NGOs are set to meet with the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child on Monday 10 October to discuss significant human rights issues affecting Australia’s children before the Government presents its case to the Committee in early 2012.

The National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services (NATSILS) have been working with the NGO coalition to provide the Committee with accurate information about human rights violations affecting Australia’s children, while also providing the Committee with a detailed supplementary report focusing on the human rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in contact with the justice and child protection systems.

See media release below for full details and comment from NATSILS Chairperson, Shane Duffy.