As Aboriginal incarceration rates continue to soar in the New South Wales, the state’s legal aid body has vowed to increase its already high Aboriginal workforce.
New South Wales has the highest proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. The latest statistics from the state’s Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research (BOCSAR) found that the state’s prison population is increasing, and along with it, the number of blackfellas in jail.
In particular, the number of Aboriginal youth in juvenile detention has increased by up to 34.2 percent in the past year alone.
Legal Aid NSW used Reconciliation Week to announce a new target – to up its Indigenous staff to 6 percent of its workforce. The figure currently sits at 5.5 percent.
Director of the Aboriginal Services Unit, Scott Hawkins yesterday said in a statement that Aboriginal lawyers made a huge difference when talking to its clients.
“A large number of our clients are Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people, and for many being able to speak to an Aboriginal staff member makes a huge difference,” Mr Dawkins said.
“Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander staff members can often relate to the cultural issues and also make them feel more at ease in communicating their issues,” he said.
The organisation said it was already nurturing Aboriginal employees by running the Bob Bellear Legal Career Pathways program.
“The program has helped us increase the number of Aboriginal people who chose a legal career with Legal Aid and we now have 19 Aboriginal lawyers and five Aboriginal field officers working around NSW, in a broad range of legal areas,” the CEO Bill Grant said.
“At the moment, 5.5 per cent of our workforce identify as Aboriginal – well ahead of the requirement set for the NSW public sector – and we are aiming to reach 6 per cent Aboriginal representation among our staff in the next 12 months.”
Donate To New Matilda
New Matilda is a small, independent media outlet. We survive through reader contributions, and never losing a lawsuit. If you got something from this article, giving something back helps us to continue speaking truth to power. Every little bit counts.