2012 marked the 40th anniversary of the founding organisation. We are proud of how far we have come and acknowledge that the journey ahead requires the collective commitment and the continued support of our staff and communities.
The Legal Service was originally formed in 1972 – largely due to the passion and commitment for justice of various community members. Success in its early stages resulted in the organisation becoming incorporated as a company on 18th September 1974 (Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islanders Corporation (QEA) for Legal Services). The Service was, and remains, a non-profit (public benevolent), community-based organisation. As other ATSILS were formed around the State, the service delivery area of “QEA” became confined to the South Eastern corner of Queensland and operated out of Brisbane. In the late 1990’s regional offices were opened at Beenleigh and Maroochydore.
Over time the Organisation’s role and responsibilities have changed. During 1996 and 1997 a review of the Service was undertaken – giving birth to the “Stretton Report”. This Report suggested various changes to the monitoring of administration and financial responsibilities of the Organisation, and the provision of services to clients. These recommendations were implemented and significant changes occurred which enhanced services to clients.
Responding further to the need of ensuring a professional and accountable service, a new organisation (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Service (QLD South) Ltd) was incorporated under the Australian Securities and Investments Commission in 2005 – coinciding with a tendering process by the Commonwealth Attorney-General’s Department, which saw the new organisation take on the service needs of the entirety of Southern Queensland – in the process expanding to 17 offices. 2005 also saw the introduction of family and civil law services – addressing a huge area of unmet need. A similar process in 2008 saw the organisation (now re-named the Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Legal Service (QLD) Ltd) take on the service delivery for all of mainland Queensland (with the exception of the Northern Peninsular Area and the Torres Strait Islands). From the 1st October 2011 the Organisation became State-wide, as it assumed the service delivery role in the Torres Strait and Northern Peninsular Area. ATSILS now consists of 25 offices and sees our staffing levels exceed 190.
Our growth and development would not have been possible without the support of our various communities – as well as the dedicated services of countless Board and staff members throughout the decades. We are also indebted to the earlier pioneering work of various sister organisations which we have since been able to build upon (such as Wakka Wakka at Murgon; Bidjara at Charleville; “QEC” at Rockhampton; “SEQ” at Toowoomba; Tharpuntoo and Njiku Jowan at Cairns; West QLD at Mount Isa; and the District services at Ipswich, Mackay and Townsville).