Today, the Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service officially opened its first ever office in Bendigo at 279 Hargreaves Street – Dja Dja Wurrung land.
The office was officially opened by Victorian Attorney-General, Jaclyn Symes, and VALS CEO, Nerita Waight.
VALS turns 50 this year, but this is the first time the Aboriginal legal service has had an office in Bendigo. Previously, VALS serviced the Bendigo region from offices in nearby regions.
VALS was provided funding for the new office as of the Bendigo Law Court Development project, that includes the new Koori Courts in Bendigo, which were also opened today.
The Bendigo office will allow the local Aboriginal Community to have better access to all of VALS’ services. VALS currently has a Criminal Law Practice, an Aboriginal Families Practice, and a Civil and Human Rights Law Practice. VALS also operates the Wirraway Police and Prison Accountability Practice. VALS also has a Community Justice Programs team that provides a range of supports for the Aboriginal community.
The office is already staffed by a Criminal Law Regional Practice Lead, Client Support Officer and a Legal Secretary. Recruitment is under way for other roles to be based in the Bendigo office.
The office is the second new office VALS has opened in less than a year, after a VALS office was opened in Warrnambool during NAIDOC Week 2022.
VALS has a plan to boost its network of local offices from the 7 existing offices, up to 13. You can read about the plan here. You can find contact details for all VALS offices at vals.org.au/locations.
Quotes Attributable to Nerita Waight, CEO of VALS
“Every Aboriginal person in Victoria who wants to use our services should be able to do just that. Opening local offices where Aboriginal people live is vital for us to deliver the best service possible. We’re at our best when we are in community.”
“Thanks to the Attorney-General and the Victorian Government for the funding they provided to help us open this office in Bendigo. VALS greatly appreciates their support and we look forward to continuing to work together to ensure Aboriginal people have access to the support they deserve. We also appreciate the support of the Courts that helped make our Bendigo office a reality.”
“We have ambitious plans for expanding our regional office network to ensure access to justice for vulnerable Aboriginal Victorians and are hopeful that the Government will make that happen.”
“Aboriginal legal services are an essential element of self-determination. We work every day to empower our people. We’re celebrating VALS’ 50 year anniversary this year and I hope one day our Bendigo office will be celebrating 50 years of service too.”