Legal service lawyers ‘in court for Alice clients every day’

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LETTER TO THE EDITOR

The North Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency (NAAJA) is pleased to confirm its plan to return to full service is well-advanced, with recent hirings significantly strengthening its Central Australian workforce.

NAAJA currently has nine lawyers working in its Alice Springs and Tennant Creek legal teams. The agency is on track to increase that to a roster of 17 staff by March when intake of new youth legal matters is expected to resume.

NAAJA is disappointed by ongoing false statements about its capacity to represent clients.

There is no denying that the organisation has been operating under strained resources as a result of a shortage of staff and an unprecedented demand for legal services, which led to the difficult but prudent decision in November to temporarily suspend the intake of new clients.

Despite this, our hardworking lawyers have continued to provide criminal law services to our clients and have continued to appear in court for existing clients every day.

NAAJA has recently entered into a deal with Territory Criminal Lawyers to provide lawyers for unrepresented defendants in Alice Springs prison.

The Alice Springs NAAJA office is, right now, doing critical work.

All day, every day, this extraordinary team is under pressure: working in a community where Aboriginal people are heavily over policed and overcharged, placing extreme pressure on clients, and their lawyers.

This is not NAAJA’s fault. The rhetoric in the media needs to tone down.

Our client service officers are embedded in the community – a critical link between lawyers and clients. The team is recruiting and growing again, new people are being hired and are coming from around Australia to work in this office.

NAAJA Principal Legal Officer Jared Sharp

PHOTO at top: NAAJA lawyer Julian McMahon AC SC

UPDATE March 14

NAAJA has announces it has returned to full-service last week in Central Australia, with the reopening of its youth legal practice in Alice Springs.

According to a media release, since February an additional nine lawyers have joined NAAJA’s criminal law team in Alice Springs.

“As the main provider of legal services to Aboriginal Territorians, NAAJA provided legal services to more than 8000 clients across a vast geographic area, including very remote locations, during the last financial year.

“Active recruitment was ongoing and the agency continued to be supported by organisations including Legal Aid, O’Brien Solicitors, Ward Keller, and the Australian Government Solicitor’s Office, who have provided lawyers on secondment,” says the statement.

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