Legal firm blasted as crime skyrockets

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EXCLUSIVE by ERWIN CHLANDA

As crime in the Territory continues to skyrocket KPMG, a world-wide professional services firm, is scathing about the NT’s biggest law firm, the North Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency (NAAJA).

It has an office and board members in Alice Springs, and is an Aboriginal controlled organisation almost entirely funded from the public purse.

The report describes as “critical” that the structure of the executive team and their team of supporting staff has not evolved in response to the growth in the size and complexity of NAAJA over the past 15 years.

“The role of the CEO is not clearly defined and the CEO’s performance is not adequately managed.

“A lack of appropriate delegations, processes and procedures, and support staff results the CEO workload being unsustainably large, and compromises the achievement of NAAJA’s priorities.”

There should be a “review [of] the membership of the Executive Team to ensure adequate coverage and representation of Throughcare and Law and Justice Programs.

The operation of the Board has not evolved in response to the growth in the size and complexity.”

The board should receive training and ongoing support on their role, responsibility and authority: “Following an initial period of intensive capability uplift the Board should receive regular governance training, and new Board members should undertake induction training, including introduction to NAAJA and general governance training,” says the report dated January 2023 but released only today, and only to the staff.

The Alice Springs News has exclusively obtained a copy.

According to police reports there have been double-digit increases in Territory crime in the year ending March 31 this year, compared to the corresponding year before: Assault up 19%, domestic violence related assault 23%, alcohol related assault 21%, sexual assault 15%, house break-ins 11%, commercial premises break-ins 31%, motor vehicle theft 19% and property damage 28%.

Gaols are at breaking point and some 90% of the inmates are Aboriginal.

The report describes as “moderate” the following problem: “Internal communication between the Board, management and staff is ad-hoc, irregular and inconsistent, and does not support the flow of important organisational and strategic information throughout the organisation.

“This promotes mistrust, misinformation, and undermines quality decision making.

“External communication is also ad-hoc, irregular and inconsistent and does not support strategic and quality communication with external stakeholders.”

NAAJA has some 200 employees and a budget of $23.2m, operating in centres including Alice Springs, Darwin, Katherine and Tennant Creek. The money comes from Canberra, under the National Legal Assistance Program.

The 70 lawyers are “constantly under the pump,” according to a well informed source speaking with the News on the condition of not being named.

The lawyers each take on some 250 cases a year.

The News has put several questions to the NAAJA leadership on May 16 and 24 and we have requested the answers by tomorrow.

2 COMMENTS

  1. A law agency is responsible for crime in the NT? I don’t think so.
    This is a perfect example of why a Voice to Parliament including the executive government is desperately needed.
    NAAJA has never had a chance to self determine its ways forward.
    The law of this land clearly does not address the reasons why crime rates amongst Aboriginal people are so high.
    I look forward to a YES vote to enable the urgent need to change according to Aboriginal values, lores and cultural adaption to the world that has been enforced on them.

  2. What short memories we have. In October 2017 then Attorney General George Brandis unceremoniously pulled the pin on Alice Springs based CAALAS and transferred funding for Central Australia under the Indigenous Legal Assistance Program to NAAJA.
    In 2019 NAAJA announced that due to insufficient funding they were no longer able to outsource legal work when they had a conflict of interest (when two clients were on opposing sides of the fence).
    When then AG Christian Porter was questioned about this he answered with a furphy, national funding for legal services had increased by 43% in the last decade, he stated (ref: ‘My Yuendumu Story’ p241 or 234 second print run – available Red Kangaroo Books. Thanks Erwin for allowing this free plug.)
    Once a month the court sits in Yuendumu. A couple of NAAJA lawyers turn up to deal with a caseload of 50 or so matters.
    So now we have NAAJA being censured for inadequate governance by a multinational firm of accountants.

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