Ngalaya is deeply concerned for the wellbeing of the almost 100 First Nations staff working within Legal Aid NSW following the ABC 7:30 report which aired on 7 June 2022.
The reports of racism within the organisation are evidence that Legal Aid NSW has let down each and every one of its Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander staff, as well as the First Nations communities that it serves. Ngalaya supports Jayne Christian, Tendayi Chivunga and Sarah Ibriham, and commend them for their bravery and strength in publicly reporting on and calling out racism within Legal Aid NSW.
It is our understanding that these reports are not the result of a few ‘bad apples’, but a deeper cultural problem where racist attitudes and behaviours are allowed to continue. Failures in Legal Aid NSW’s complaints process are of particular concern. It was shocking to hear that an anonymous survey of Legal Aid NSW staff obtained by the ABC revealed that more than half of the First Nations staff reported experiencing racism or discrimination, but felt complaining would do nothing.
Legal Aid NSW assists the most disadvantaged, marginalised and vulnerable people in our society. It is a critical part of our legal ecosystem. Systemic racism is pervasive, and the rot that has been exposed at Legal Aid NSW is a danger to all until it is meaningfully confronted and effective measures are implemented at every level of the organisation.
The Ngalaya Board, in discussion with some of our senior members, have formed the view that the allegations that Legal Aid NSW poses a serious safety risk for racial minorities must be investigated to the full.
It is not enough to get First Nations people in through the doors, as a public institution Legal Aid NSW must ensure that those First Nations staff are protected from racism in the workplace.
We call on Legal Aid NSW to commission a broad, independent investigation into racism within its organisation. By committing to do this work seriously and properly, to make Legal Aid a safe place for our people and communities, we hope Legal Aid NSW will be able to rebuild the trust that it has lost.
Ngalaya will be closely monitoring the situation and the steps Legal Aid NSW takes from this point forward.
For further information or comment contact Mark Holden, Director, Ngalaya Indigenous Corporation.
Correction: an earlier version of this statement incorrectly suggested that the anonymous survey was conducted by the ABC, when in fact ABC was provided the anonymous results of a People Matters Employment Survey.