Australian indigenous services come up for tender

Government-funded legal services provided to Aborigines and Torres Strait islanders in Australia are to be opened up to private law firms for the first time when an official tender process begins in November.

The Australian Federal Government has revealed plans to replace the existing indigenous legal aid body, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services (ATSILS), with appointed advisers over the next year.

This process will begin in November when requests for tenders will be released in Western Australia and Victoria, with the selection process scheduled for completion by March 2005. Tender specifications will then be published in Queensland.

The providers selected in Victoria and Western Australia will begin delivering services on 1 July 2005.

Despite the tender process opening the indigenous legal service up to the wider legal market, no private law firms in Western Australia are expected to make any significant bids for the work.

Aboriginal Legal Service of Western Australia (ALSWA) director of legal services Mark Cuomo said this was because Aboriginal legal services were unattractive due to their cost structures.

The government is hoping to find a single provider in each of the country’s eight states and territories to provide legal casework services, including representation and assistance covering criminal, civil and family law matters.