Legal services for Tasmanian Aboriginals appear set to be entirely Tasmanian-based once again after being operated out of Melbourne for the past four years, but they won't be returning to the Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre.
A job advertisement for a transition project officer at the Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service - the current operator - outlines duties including working with the Tasmanian Regional Aboriginal Communities Alliance to implement an "effective governance structure".
The federal government was revamping the legal assistance system and invited comment in November, but the job ad from December appears to show a decision has already been made, angering the TAC.
The legal assistance changes will come into effect from July.
TAC chief executive officer Heather Sculthorpe said they had "contributed fully" to a discussion paper, but it appeared their feedback was not considered.
"We are at a loss to understand this pre-empting of a national enquiry and the waste of time and money groups like ours put into contributing to the redesign of system," she said.
"We will be seeking an explanation from both Attorneys-General in the hope of overcoming this total lack of government transparency in decision making and having the decision reversed."
The TAC operated the Aboriginal legal service for 40 years until 2015 when the Attorney-General's department raised concerns about the high number of civil cases, and regional Aboriginal groups alleged the TAC was using a "narrow" definition of Aboriginality. The service was run by private law firm Beeton and Mansell.
The $11.7 million contract was then transferred to VALS in Melbourne, which established the Tasmanian Aboriginal Community Legal Service. The Tasmanian offices contained client support officers.
At the time, former legal director Michael Mansell said TAC's arrangement had successfully undergone government scrutiny, and the government's allegations had come at short notice.
The TAC has since been critical of a lack of 24-hour lawyer assistance for Tasmanian Aboriginals under the service provided out of Melbourne.
The body likely to be tasked with administering the legal service - TRACA - was established in 2015 to represent eight regional Tasmanian organisations, to take part in consultation with the Hodgman Government.
A spokesperson for Attorney-General Christian Porter said it was still finalising changes to the provision of Aboriginal legal services.
"The Australian Government understands that the Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service (VALS) is working with the staff of the Tasmanian Aboriginal Community Legal Service (TACLS), who deliver legal assistance services in Tasmania, and the Tasmanian Regional Aboriginal Communities Alliance (TRACA) to allow TACLS to operate independently," he said.
"Current funding arrangements under the Indigenous Legal Assistance Program are in place until 30 June 2020.
"From 1 July 2020, the Australian Government has proposed that the funding of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Assistance Services (ATSILS) will be included under the National Legal Assistance Partnership (NLAP).
"The NLAP remains the subject of discussions and negotiations, ahead of its scheduled commencement on 1 July 2020."