From June 30, 2021, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Service, QLD (ATSILS) will no longer be delivering legal assistance and community legal education services to communities throughout the Torres Strait Region and Northern Peninsula Area (NPA).

Under a funding arrangement with the Torres Strait Regional Authority (TSRA), the leading Commonwealth representative body in the area, ATSILS have been the primary legal service provider across that remote region for the past ten years.

ATSILS CEO Shane Duffy said initially the community-based organisation had signed a three-year contract with the TSRA, but for the last seven years their funding agreement has been on an annual basis.  

“The service was tendered out, and split into two… so, we had the community legal education component and then the main legal systems contract in criminal, civil and family law,” he said.

“As the primary legal service provider in the Torres Strait and Northern Peninsula Area for the last 10 years, we are proud of the work we have done in improving access to justice for communities across this remote region. Our staff who have worked there can hold their heads up high with the legacy they leave.”

ATSILS CEO Shane Duffy

According to Mr Duffy, “the board found the tender document requirements no longer suited where we as an organisation have been delivering services, and where we needed to go into the future.”

“Since 2011 we have built strong relationships with the community, courts and broader social services sector to address and advocate for not only the legal needs of our clients, but also the root causes as to why they need our services,” he said

“I wish the communities of the Torres Strait and NPA regions all the best for the future and I would like to praise the diligent commitment of Regional Manager C’Zarke Maza and his team for making a positive difference to the lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people through the quality work they’ve done for many years. I would also like to thank the TSRA and other stakeholders in the region for their support and collaboration in assisting us to ensure better access to justice for people in these regions.”

The Kalkadoon man added, they will continue to work with the TSRA, and the new service provider – whoever that may be, to ensure our clients in the region receive the same quality services until the end of our current contract and ensure a smooth transition period prior to the end of June.

“It is a disappointment, but our focus is on making sure that we do the best that we can, and in the end, we have faith that the Torres Strait Regional Authority will select the right tenderer.

“We’ve left a huge legacy, for the first time ever all the Islands were being serviced over the years that we’ve had the funding, and we’ve been very proud and honoured to be able to service Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and making sure the most vulnerable people within QLD received legal assistance services from our organisation.”

Shane Duffy’s full interview with NIRS.