Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service wins ALA VIC Civil Justice Award

15th May 2017

A legal service responsible for vulnerable Aboriginal children being transferred from adult prison back into youth detention facilities has been presented with the Victorian Civil Justice Award (CJA), the Australian Lawyers Alliance (ALA) said today.

ALA Victoria President Geraldine Collins presented the Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service (VALS) CEO Wayne Muir with the CJA during a ceremony at the ALA’s annual Victorian conference in Bendigo.

Ms Collins said that VALS’ advocacy was an integral element in protecting the rights of the youths who had been wrongly transferred to adult detention.

“The fight for justice by the Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service makes it a fitting recipient of the Australian Lawyers Alliance Civil Justice Award,” Ms Collins said.

“The Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service was established to address the over-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the criminal justice system.”

“VALS plays an important role in providing referrals, advice/information, duty work or case work assistance to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the State of Victoria, as well as a 24-hour legal referral service,” Ms Collins said.

“In late 2016 a number of Aboriginal children were wrongly transferred from youth detention to an adult detention facility, Barwon Prison. This occurred during a period of considerable public scrutiny and debate about the need for the Victorian government to be ‘tough on crime’.”

“VALS successfully argued that these children were transferred contrary to law.

Its work ultimately saw these Aboriginal children transferred back back to youth detention facilities,” Ms Collins said.

“VALS’ actions protected the rights of these vulnerable Aboriginal children under the Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities Act 2006 (Vic) and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.”

“VALS courageous advocacy saw it stand up for vulnerable members of Victoria’s prison population, in the finest tradition of the Australian Lawyers Alliance protecting and promoting human rights,” Ms Collins said.