Aborigines' legal group bites the dust

The Australian Supreme Court has ordered the closure of the Aboriginal Legal Service (ALS), a pioneering group dedicated to representing aborigines which was equipped with solicitors to defend them in civil and criminal cases.

The ALS, which was set up 25 years ago and run by aborigines, was ironically shot in the foot by aborigines themselves. Thirty-two former employees brought the ALS to court claiming it had not paid them.

Peter Somerset, an aborigine lawyer representing the plaintiffs, said: “There was an investigation by the Australian Security Commission, into the affairs the organisation.”

The court ordered the ALS into liquidation to pay its debts. Bruce Miles, chief solicitor for the ALS, was saddened by the closure. He said: “For 25 years the ALS was the fighting force for aborigine people.

“Our organisation was the original epitome of aboriginal protest.

“It bettered the legal status of aborigine people in white Australia.”

Most of the 60 people working for the ALS at the time of its closure have found work with other aborigine organisations that have sprung up in the wake of the ALS.

However, Miles does not feel these organisations are adequate replacements for the service. “These organisations are not nearly as rebellious or as independent as the ALS,” he said.