Thursday, 6 December 2018

Moving the Aboriginal Legal Service to Coffs Harbour will have adverse effects

The Daily Examiner, 3 December 2018:

A Grafton solicitor says the decision to move the Aboriginal Legal Service to Coffs Harbour will have adverse effects.

“As a lawyer who has worked with the Aboriginal community over many decades I was very surprised and concerned by your report in (Friday’s) Examiner that the Aboriginal Legal Service is closing its Grafton office and moving to Coffs Harbour.

If this move goes ahead it will have a significant and immediate adverse effect on the Grafton and Clarence Valley Aboriginal community that I feel the “ALS decision makers” in Sydney have not taken into account.

The Grafton building that ALS now works from is shared with a number of Aboriginal service providers and is a community hub that is safe, welcoming and holistically culturally appropriate for the services provided.

These services include tenancy advice, youth empowerment and support, addiction support, family violence support, mental health, homelessness – all of whom draw on ALS legal services for client support.

The reality is that the presence of the ALS in this group of service providers is the magnet that draws the community together. This original service hub is unique and should be maintained at all costs.

The logic as expressed by ALS Sydney for moving to Coffs Harbour appears to be short-sighted, rushed and vexing given the role now played by the Grafton ALS office within the Aboriginal community in the Clarence Valley.

Also, with the new Grafton jail soon to be opened, it is logical that a full time operating ALS office in Grafton would be of significant support to the courts and police and such support would be significantly diminished if the ALS moves to Coffs Harbour.

Jeff McLaren,
Jeffrey McLaren Solicitors

It comes as no surprise that Coffs Harbour City seeks to drain services from the Clarence Valley.

For years the NSW state government and elements on Clarence Valley Council have sought to draw Clarence Valley local government area into Coffs Harbour City Council's ambit - first as an outright merger push and later bundled together as a faux community of interest.

This is part of the inevitable outcome. Clarence Valley communities will have to get used to this state of affairs or vigorously fight it.

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