National Partnership Agreement on Legal Assistance Services
2 July 2015 at 11:40 am
An eleventh-hour signing of a five year national partnership agreement on legal assistance services will see Community Legal Centres included for the first time but the sector has warned that the new agreement does not create long-term certainty.
Attorney General Senator George Brandis said the agreement worth $1.3 billion in Commonwealth funding provides for a fair and more systematic approach to the funding allocation to deliver legal services to vulnerable people.
“States and Territories, as the level of Government closer to the people needing services, will now be able to make integrated, evidence-based decisions about where funding is directed and how services are delivered,” he said.
National Association of Community Legal Centre (NACLC) while the last minute signing of the agreement means some certainty for services in terms of provide staff and service it is by no means perfect.
“While we are pleased the agreement has been signed and provides funding for the next two years, this new agreement immediately locks in funding cuts in a number of States, including 30 per cent cut to CLC funding nationally from 2017-2018,” National Association of Community Legal Centre (NACLC) Chair, Michael Smith said.
“Signing the NPA was an urgent first step, but the Commonwealth, State and Territory Governments must also address the serious underfunding of CLCs moving forward.
“For example we already know that there will be funding cuts to CLCs in South Australia, Western Australia, Tasmania and the Northern Territory and it is still unclear how negotiations will play out with those States in the future.”
Attorney General Senator Brandis said the agreement was the product of more than twelve months of intensive consultation and negotiation with State and Territory Governments and the legal assistance sector.
“In addition to the significant funding contribution under the national partnership agreement, the Australian Government will continue to directly fund Indigenous legal assistance providers,” he said.
Brandis said the Government had also allocated $350 million over five years to provide culturally appropriate legal assistance services to support Indigenous people to effectively access justice.