The Times Australia

The Times

Australia

NAAJA FALLS FURTHER

  • Written by The Times

The appointment as chair of the North Australian Aboriginal Justice Association of a man who pleaded guilty to assaulting his pregnant partner is unacceptable.

Shadow Minister for Indigenous Australians Senator Jacinta Nampijinpa Price and Shadow Attorney General Senator Michaelia Cash today condemned the NAAJA board for the appointment of Mr Hugh Woodbury as chair despite knowing that he had pleaded guilty to domestic violence charges against his pregnant partner. 

Senator Nampijinpa Price said, “to appoint as board chair a person who has admitted to behaving in this way is simply unacceptable.” 

“Aboriginal people experience some of the highest rates of family and domestic violence in our country. The prevention of this kind of offending is the precise context in which NAAJA operates, making the hypocrisy of this appointment all the more blatant.”  

“This is yet another example of the double standards that we hold when it comes to Aboriginal people and organisations. How would the government and national media react if someone with the same rap sheet was put in charge of Women’s Legal Services Australia?” Senator Nampijinpa Price asked.

Senator Cash said: “Serious unanswered questions remain over the culture and governance at NAAJA. The Commonwealth directs millions of dollars into the organisation every year, but instead of seeing that money being used to achieve outcomes on the ground, it seems we are yet again responding to questionable board decisions.

“When will the Attorney-General step in?  What steps is he actually taking to ensure our money is being used as intended?”

“Will we see any changes to the woefully deficient services delivered on his watch in places like Alice Springs? Or will he simply throw more money at the problem in the hopes it will go away, as the NLAP review seems to suggest?" Senator Cash said. 

Not only has there been a mass exodus of staff from NAAJA in the last 12 months, but Senator Nampijinpa Price believes the service is still failing the community. 

During Senate Estimates last week, Senator Nampijinpa Price discovered that in addition to the 75 unrepresented individuals, 21 of which were remanded in custody between October 2023 and February 2024, since February this year, an additional 16 individuals were unrepresented, six of whom were remanded in custody due to inadequate service delivery at NAAJA. 

“NAAJA is in a critical state, so the need for good management and leadership has never been more important. As the largest provider of Aboriginal legal services in The Territory, we are talking about an organisation that exists for the benefit of our most marginalised communities.” 

“The failings that we have seen at NAAJA are the result of poor management and leadership. That’s why ensuring we have the right people to steady this ship is absolutely vital.” 

Mr Woodbury was appointed to the position of chair in March 2024 and is responsible for managing over 20 million dollars a year received from the Federal government. 

“This is simply not the time or the place to be making exceptions for people who exhibit such poor behaviour in their personal lives.” 

“We cannot hope for things to get better at NAAJA when we allow people on the board who have shown such flagrant disregard for human life.” said Senator Nampijinpa Price.
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