Call to halt ALS move to Coffs
LABOR candidate for Page Patrick Deegan has urged Aboriginal Legal Services to pump the brakes on the controversial move to Coffs Harbour.
Mr Deegan said a high-quality ALS for the people of Coffs Harbour should not come at the expense of of Clarence Valley communities.
"I made some comments at the public meeting that the ALS has significant budget restraints and that they do have to make difficult decisions,” he said.
"It is distressing to hear that since then the board has decided to move the service to Coffs Harbour and employees have had to make a decision on their future employment in such a hurry.”
Mr Deegan said he agreed ALS received inadequate funding and was working with Shadow Attorney-General Mark Dreyfuss in an attempt to secure a future for the service in Grafton.
"I am hopeful there will be good news for Aboriginal Legal Services in general in the lead- up to the election,” he said.
"I call on the board to defer a decision until after the federal election.”
The move by the Labor candidate comes after misinterpretation of an ALS media release from last week made it seem Mr Deegan supported the move to Coffs Harbour.
The quote read: "With limited state and federal funding, the ALS must direct existing service delivery resources into areas with growing needs from local Aboriginal communities, like Coffs Harbour.”
The quote followed on from a paraphrase of Mr Deegan but was not attributed to anyone.
The ALS has since responded, saying it was clear all paraphrased quotes were from ALS chairman Bunja Smith.
Mr Deegan and some community members, including a former ALS employee who does not want to be identified, both said the press release appeared to "misquote” the Labor candidate.
Mr Deegan said in a Facebook comment on a post of the press release, that he did "not support the closure of the Grafton office” and was "lobbying for additional funding for the ALS”.
A former ALS employee said the organisation had still not justified to the community why it was going ahead with the move despite backlash from the community and local politicians.
He said despite the ALS admitting at the December meeting it used incorrect figures in determining the Aboriginal population of the area, it had failed to provide new numbers to explain the decision.
"They said blatantly that the statistics were wrong,” he said.
"What statistics have they got now, what are they relying on?”