There are legal services available for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island people throughout Australia, which are separate from Legal Aid. These come in two main forms, click on the links below to find out more:
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services (ATSILS) were established in every State and Territory over 40 years ago to provide culturally competent legal assistance services to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
ATSILS are Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community controlled non-for-profit organisations which, through funding from the Commonwealth Attorney-General’s Department, provide legal assistance services in the areas of criminal, family and civil law in addition to undertaking community legal education, prisoner through-care and law reform and advocacy activities.
ATSILS have different specialities and resources. These services can include providing:
Legal representation on criminal law, family law, civil law and Children’s Care and Protection law
Prisoner Through-Care Services to address recidivism
Justice Reinvestment/Youth Justice Advocacy Programs to reduce the incarceration rates of Aboriginal young people
Law Reform and Community Legal Education
Coronial and Public Sector Monitoring
Services for prisoners (24 hour assistance at police stations/Custody Notification Services/Aboriginal Visitor Scheme)
Publications (legal fact sheets, submissions, films, newsletters, educational resources) aimed to enhance the understanding of the justice system, and in particular to advocate a better understanding and appreciation of the culturally specific and diverse challenges that impact upon Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and communities
Work & Development Orders allowing people to pay off fines through unpaid work, courses or treatment
Welfare Rights including public housing, Centrelink debt and income management
Some ATSILS have after-hours night clinics, some set up appointments to meet with lawyers, some let you drop in at any time and some have phone advice lines. To find out which services your local ATSILS provides you should contact them directly, or visit their website (see below).
What are Family Violence Prevention Legal Services and Aboriginal Women’s Projects?
Other than ATSILS, there are also organisations that provide specific legal services in relation to a particular group of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island peoples with special needs, including Aboriginal Women’s Projects and Family Violence Prevention Units. Some FVPUs are also Community Legal Centres.
What do Family Violence Prevention Legal Services do and how can I find them?
The primary function of Family Violence Prevention Legal Services (FVPLSs) is to provide legal assistance, casework, counselling and court support to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults and children who are victims-survivors of family violence, including sexual assault/abuse. FVPLSs also provide community legal education, and early intervention and prevention activities.
FVPLS units are expected to ensure that the services offered are culturally inclusive and accessible to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults and children in the specified service region, regardless of gender, sexual preference, family relationship, location, disability, literacy or language.
What do Aboriginal Women’s Projects do and how can I find them?
Aboriginal Women’s Projects are either community legal centres themselves (and members of the National Association of Community Legal Centres), or are housed within existing community legal centres. They are specialist services for Indigenous women, often with a focus on a particular area of law or legal need.
There are currently nine Aboriginal Women’s Legal Projects in Australia, for more information please contact them: