We’re committed to building a workplace that is culturally safe for First Nations people. We also want to ensure that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples can get the help they need to live fairer, better lives.
Our Aboriginal community engagement (ACE) officers are a vital and enormously effective part of that work. The ACE officer is a non-legal role that provides a connection between First Nations communities and Victoria Legal Aid (VLA) services.
'Traditionally, people come to VLA through our legal help line, our website, referrals or in the courts. We know that for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people that model alone is simply not enough to get them the help they need.' – Alan Dewis, Associate Director, Aboriginal Services.
Our ACE officers work in three locations: Morwell, Shepparton and Mildura, where they have been building connections with local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities for several years, and the results speak for themselves.
Our ACE officer in Gippsland, Jess McDonald, speaks about her work with the Wulgunggo Ngalu Learning Place, near Morwell. Jess is joined by Shaun Braybrook, manager of Wulgunggo Ngalu.
'At VLA we work with some really vulnerable people, and we need to ensure they feel safe. The ACE officer role offers a helping hand, and closes that gap between lawyer and client. Dealing with legal services, particularly for mob, can be really scary otherwise.' – Jess McDonald, ACE officer, Morwell.
Vitally, the ACE officers exist to bring legal help to those who have fallen through the gaps. Too often, Indigenous Australians don’t know where to look or even know that their problems can be solved by a lawyer.
By building a connection to community, and providing support to Aboriginal people in need of help, the ACE officer role is helping VLA give people who have missed out on support for too long get a chance to build a better life.
Disclaimer: The material in this print-out relates to the law as it applies in the state of Victoria. It is intended as a general guide only. Readers should not act on the basis of any material in this print-out without getting legal advice about their own particular situations. Victoria Legal Aid disclaims any liability howsoever caused to any person in respect of any action taken in reliance on the contents of the publication.
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Reviewed 22 December 2022