Elder recalls ALS when it listened to community
THE decision to move the Aboriginal Legal Service office from Grafton to Coffs Harbour has inspired Aboriginal Elder Uncle Herb Duroux to demonstrate to people what he thinks the organisation really stands for.
He recalled the early days of the ALS, which began 50 years ago, when the community united to create an organisation to guide its search for justice.
Uncle Herb has begun gathering material for a more detailed story with some of the original people who were involved in the 70s.
“I think ALS has changed now,” he said. “It has moved away from truly hearing the grassroots people.”
The proof for him was a public meeting in the Grafton Community Centre in December, 2018, when more than 100 community members met to air their views of the decision of ALS directors to announce the move.
“Voting to move the well-run, Grafton office to Coffs Harbour – despite more than 100 community members and Elders like myself attending a meeting, voicing our concerns wouldn’t have happened in the 1970s.”
He said the move was impossible to justify as Coffs Harbour had full a legal aid office and a community legal centre.
“There are other changes too that the community is not aware of, like removing the senior Aboriginal staff and community links to the regions,” he said.
“It really is disrespectful to us in the Clarence Valley and NSW.”
Uncle Herb said the move did not sit well with the Reconciliation theme: In This Together.
“I’d question what the ALS Board’s understanding of that theme, given their decisions about the Clarence Valley,” he said.
“We need to stand united for the Clarence Valley so we can keep our services and jobs strong.”