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Govt opens free legal service for inquiry

AAP logoAAP 14/11/2016 Lucy Hughes Jones

Indigenous Affairs Minister Nigel Scullion has helped launch a free legal advice service for people engaging with the Northern Territory's royal commission into the juvenile justice and child protection systems.

Mr Scullion joined Labor senator Malarndirri McCarthy and member for Solomon Luke Gosling at the opening of the Children in Care and Youth Detention Advice Service (CICAYDAS) in Darwin on Monday.

The Turnbull government provided $1.1 million for the service, which is being delivered by the North Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency (NAAJA) in Darwin, Katherine and Alice Springs.

With formal hearings for the inquiry set to continue next month, CICAYDAS will provide remote indigenous community outreach, referrals to solicitors and help with access to financial assistance for potential witnesses.

"It's important to allow people to tell their stories," Mr Scullion said.

"The most important thing is this cultural competence and comfort."

Ms McCarthy said the initiative was crucial to getting Aboriginal voices heard.

"We have terrible issues here in the Northern Territory in terms of working with our most disadvantaged people on every level," she said.

Larrakia traditional owner James Parfitt-Fejo said the NT's child protection and youth justice system is at breaking point.

He spoke about his grandmother, who was part of the stolen generation, and was taken away by the "white fella welfare man" at four years old.

With the help of an Aboriginal stockman on horseback cracking his whip, the children were "herded" onto the back of a truck, he said.

"The kids were found, they ran with their mother screaming, but they could not get away," Mr Parfitt-Fejo said.

"Tears flowing, her mum tried clinging to the side of the truck. They did all this in the name of protection."

The commission was sparked by an ABC Four Corners episode that aired footage of boys being tear gassed, shackled and put in spit hoods at Don Dale Youth Detention Centre.

"Some say that those boys are no angels, and there may or may not be some truth to that," Mr Parfitt-Fejo said.

But he said no one deserves that treatment, and everyone has basic human rights, no matter the situation.

"Especially a child, especially our youth, especially our future," he said.

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