Interim Legal Service Provider for Torres Strait Islands and NPA Regions

Please be advised that as of the close of business today (30 June 2021), the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Service (QLD) Ltd will no longer be providing legal assistance and community legal education services to communities throughout the Torres Strait Region and Northern Peninsula Area (NPA).

From 1 July 2021, The Torres Strait Regional Authority has appointed – Queensland Indigenous Family Violence Legal Service (QIFVLS) to deliver community legal education services and QIFVLS has also been engaged to provide interim legal services for communities Torres Strait and Northern Peninsula Area Regions.

If you, or your family, live in the Torres Strait or NPA region and need legal help call QIFVLS 1800 887 700.
ATSILS wish all involved in the interim arrangements (and beyond) all the very best.

Happy International Human Rights Day!

Human Rights DayOn this day in 1948 the members of the United Nations General Assembly, including Australia, adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Fast forward to 2020, and in Queensland we now live in a State that has committed to putting people first through the introduction of the Queensland Human Rights Act 2019.

The historic Queensland Human Rights Act 2019 introduced by the Palaszczuk State Government draws on international human rights norms and recognises that every person has human rights and the right to enjoy them without discrimination.

Under the Act the distinct cultural rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are protected and Queensland is the first Australian jurisdiction to specifically list this right in legislation.

Understand your rights!

To access resources designed specifically for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples visit The Queensland Human Rights Commission website.

https://www.qhrc.qld.gov.au/your-rights/for-aboriginal-and-torres-strait-islander-people

Putting People First

View the first Annual Report on the operation of the Queensland Human Rights Act

https://www.qhrc.qld.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0005/29534/Human-Rights-Act-Annual-Report-2019-20.pdf

Murri Court – Explainer Video from QSAC.

Learn more about Murri Court with this great new explainer video from the Queensland Sentencing and Advisory Council. 

The Murri Court delivers a culturally appropriate court process that respects and acknowledges Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures.

It is a combination of support, action and ownership that sees Elders and Respected people from the community work closely with the Murri Court magistrates, the defendant and their legal representatives to help keep families together and enable offenders to make better choices by addressing the underlying issues that contribute to their offending.

Doing Justice Differently focuses on informing Queenslanders about the specialist courts and programs. For more information visit:

https://www.sentencingcouncil.qld.gov.au/about-sentencing/doing-justice-differently/murri-court 

Licencing Muster in the Northern Peninsula Area – September 2019

ATSILS Licencing Muster 2019 1Following the success of the first ever NPA Licensing Muster in July 2019, ATSILS has again combined forces with the Queensland Police service, Department of Justice and Attorney-General, Department of Transport and Main Roads (Licensing Mob), NPA Family and Community Services and the NPA Community Justice Groups to deliver a ‘Licencing Muster’ event in the NPA region on 12 September 2019.
This community event is an opportunity for the five NPA Communities (Injinoo, Umagico, Bamaga, New Mapoon and Seisia) to have unprecedented access to licensing and identity document-related services from a range of service providers. Eleven staff from seven different government and non-government service providers worked together on the day to service well over 80 community members to assist with a range of licensing and identity related issues. This is over triple the number who attended the last Muster in July, demonstrating continued and growing need for such Musters in the NPA.
 
As ATSILS CEO Shane Duffy has explained:
“These programs are important intervention and prevention approaches that are critical to blocking the fast lane to prison for many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in remote communities. In consultation with the current Magistrate in the NPA region we put a spotlight on the disproportionate number of licensing issues ending up before the courts and the unacceptable social and economic costs to these communities.
In response we tasked our Prevention, Intervention and Community Legal Education Officer in the region to take the lead in coordinating key stakeholders to work together to develop solutions to address the underlying challenges that fuel this issue. These challenges include simple things we take for granted in urban areas, such as adequate access to basic licencing and registration services. ATSILS has long been a strong advocate for a smarter approach to this justice issue, and these Licencing Musters are examples of the important elements needed in the fabric of broader justice reinvestment strategies that can create stronger, safer communities in the region. The success of these programs to date is a credit to the vision and hard work of all involved.”
Building on lessons learnt from the last Muster, several targeted events were also offered in the lead-up to the big day on 12 September. Two Learner Licence workshops run by the Indigenous driver Licence Unit (Licensing Mob) were held prior which were targeted at Community Development Program (CDP) Participants and kids in years 10-12 at NPA State College who were eligible to receive their learners prior the Muster. Everyone who attended the Workshops passed their learner theory test and many went on to secure their learner licence at the Muster. However, inconsistent ID and lack of funds unfortunately remained a barrier for some who passed the test, and we intend to continue to work with those community members, so they are ready to get their licence when the next Muster comes to town.
Proactive assistance was also provided to the NPA communities with identity related issues in the lead up to the Muster, so they could have the necessary Evidence of Identity (EOI) required by the Licensing Mob sorted. This was in direct response to our understanding that inconsistent or insufficient identity documents is a major hurdle for community members in getting their licence. We therefore worked closely with the NPA State College, NPA Family and Community Services and the Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages to run an “Identity Drive” in the weeks prior. This resulted in over 20 birth certificate applications being lodged, as well as a number of birth registration and change of name applications. Many who were able to get their birth certificate at the Identity Drive were then able to attend the Muster and sort out their licence because they had enough EOI.
The Licensing Muster events continue to demonstrate the need for more proactive and intensive support for licensing and registration services in the NPA. Although we were able to help a significant number of people on the day, it was obvious to all service providers that consistent Muster events will be necessary to meet the enormous demand for services in the region that is currently going unmet.
We are hopeful that regular Licensing Musters (perhaps every 2-3 months) and continued interagency support would make a dent in the astronomical rates of unlicensed and unregistered driving in the NPA, and ultimately lower the numbers appearing before the Courts on related charges each month.
We are also aware that these licensing and identity issues, and lack of access to services, is also a significant problem for the Torres Strait region, especially the Outer Islands where no licensing services are available except through infrequent visits from the Indigenous Driver Licence Unit (Licensing Mob). We are committed to exploring further opportunities for replicating the Licensing Muster model in these communities as well, depending upon the continued commitment of all agencies to collaborate and resource such activities going forward.
We plan to hold the next NPA Licensing Muster in November 2019 (date TBC) and plan to build on both the successes and lessons learnt at this Muster to provide an event better Muster next time.

Another death in custody due to human rights breaches?

The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Service (QLD) Ltd is appalled at the state of play for children and juveniles currently languishing in police watch houses across Queensland. It is totally unacceptable that such vulnerable young people are being subjected to this type of traumatic treatment whilst under the care of the state. Holding kids in these facilities is extremely dangerous and simply creates an unsafe environment where another death in custody is more likely to occur due to human rights abuses.

View Media Release

 

Media Release: ALP announce First Nations Justice Package

The Australian Labor Party announce critical funding measures to address the disadvantage experienced by First Nations people in the justice system.

The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Service (QLD) Ltd (ATSILS) has welcomed the funding commitments announced today by The Australian Labor Party (ALP) in relation to addressing family violence and the disadvantage experienced by First Nations peoples in the justice system.

https://www.atsils.org.au/news/media-release/

ATSILS calls for Government to act on ALRC recommendations to tackle soaring incarceration rates.

ALRC_March2018The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Service (QLD) Ltd welcomes the report and recommendations of the Australian Law Reform Commission’s ‘Pathways to Justice – Inquiry into Incarceration Rates of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples’ tabled in Parliament today.

ATSILS CEO Shane Duffy said, “This report is yet another validation of the extreme disadvantage Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people face day to day when coming in contact with the justice system and presents clear, evidence based solutions that can address the disproportionate rate at which Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are incarcerated.”

“The recommendations handed down in this report provides yet another opportunity for all levels of government to turn their rhetoric into action and work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and organisations to implement real change and create safer communities” said Mr Duffy.

“Back in 1991 the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody also found that an unfair and discriminatory justice system was failing our people and fuelling over-incarceration. It offered comprehensive solutions that could affect change through its 339 recommendations, but these were left on the shelf largely ignored and unimplemented by governments. Fast forward almost 3 decades later and here we are today grappling with an even more complex and rapidly growing problem so shameful the Federal Government has labelled it a ‘National Disgrace’. We can’t let this history of inaction continue to repeat and drop the ball on this again,” Mr Duffy said.

Research commissioned by ALRC shows the magnitude of the crisis we are dealing with today with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men found to be 14.7 times more likely to be imprisoned than non-Indigenous men, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women found to be 21.2 times more likely to be imprisoned than non-Indigenous women. Between 2006 and 2016 imprisonment rates have increased by 41%. The report noted that Although Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults make up around 2 per cent of the national population, they constitute 27 per cent of the national prison population.

As a matter of priority and in line with our national peak body (National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services) we call on Governments to:

  • Implement a National Justice target as part of Close the Gap framework.
  • Promote justice reinvestment through redirection of resources from incarceration to prevention, rehabilitation and support, in order to reduce reoffending and the long-term economic cost of incarceration of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
  • Engage and empower Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to provide basic universal services and adequately resource innovative community led solutions.
  • Abolish mandatory sentencing, which disproportionately affects Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and increasing more culturally appropriate diversionary options and community-based alternatives.
  • Reform laws so that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are not sent to prison for minor offences such as offensive language or unpaid fines.
  • Fix bail and sentencing laws so that a person’s cultural experience can be taken into account.
  • Adequately resource and provide funding certainty to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services, Community Legal Centres and Legal Aid Commissions more broadly. Ensuring access to justice for vulnerable community groups fundamentally requires sufficient, sustainable and ongoing funding for legal assistance providers.
  • Enact mandatory Custody Notification Systems in partnership with every ATSILS.


Media Contact:
Josh Herd for Shane Duffy, CEO Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Service Qld, email josh.herd@atsils.org.au or phone 0439 561 775.

View/Print Media Release PDF:
https://bit.ly/2pL8g9Y

ATSILS ensuring access to justice across the Torres Strait

ATSILS Torres Strait Service DeliveryRecently our CEO and Communications team journeyed with our Thursday Island staff on their Outer Islands Magistrate Court Circuit throughout the Torres Strait. 

 

In one of the State’s most remote regions ATSILS is the primary legal assistance provider and we are committed to ensuring the diverse communities across the Torres Strait and Northern Peninsula Area have access to professional legal assistance and representation. 

 

It was great to see the local team in action and spend time with communities on the Islands of Warraber, Boigu, Mabuiag, Saibai and Badu and get insight into the justice issues they face so we can continue to tune our services to respond to local need.

 

Our team operate from our regional office on Thursday Island and they are an exemplar of ATSILS innovative brand of service delivery, they are highly engaged with community and display a tireless commitment to people they represent under challenging conditions. They have established a respectful and collegiate working relationship with the Magistrate, Justice Groups, Police Prosecution, Community Police and other officers of the court and work as an effective team to enhance access to justice for some of Queensland’s most remote populations.

Free to Be Kids – National Plan of Action released

A plan to transform the justice system for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children

Today the Change the Record Coalition launched an eight-point plan -Free to be Kids – National Plan of Action – to transform the youth justice system and prevent abuse of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children in prisons.

“The time to act is now. This is an historic opportunity for the Federal Government to make a difference for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children,” said Antoinette Braybrook, Co-Chair of Change the Record.

“The Royal Commission into Protection and Detention of Children in the Northern Territory demonstrated shocking abuse of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in prisons, and we know that similar abuses are happening right around the country,” said Cheryl Axleby, Co-Chair of Change the Record.

Change the Record has said the Federal Government must:

Support children, families and communities to stay strong and together
Raise the age of criminal responsibility to 14
Get children who are not sentenced out of prison
Adequately fund Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community-controlled legal and other support services
End abusive practices in prisons
Set targets to end the overrepresentation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in prison
Improve collection and use of data
Work through COAG to reform State and Territory laws that breach children’s rights

Download Free to be Kids – National Plan of Action [PDF]

 

Change the Record - Free to be Kids

 

 

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OPCAT – Torture Prevention Treaty.

The Optional Protocol to the UN Convention against Torture – OPCAT – sends a clear message: the risk of torture and other ill-treatment exists in all situations where persons are deprived of their liberty. Therefore, prevention is needed everywhere and at all times.

At ATSILS we’re calling on the Australian Government to ratify OPCAT as a matter of urgency to protect the rights of all in detention.

The UN Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture (OPCAT) is an international agreement which aims to prevent torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment in detention.

Learn More: Australian Human Rights Commission: OPCAT and Australia
https://www.humanrights.gov.au/news/stories/opcat-and-australia