Community Lawyers Call for Funding Action
15 March 2016 at 11:24 am
Lawyers from community legal centres across Australia are in Canberra to lobby MPs about the crisis in legal assistance for disadvantaged people and to launch a new funding campaign for the centres.
The lawyers said hundreds of thousands of people are missing out on the legal help they need.
The new national funding campaign, Community Law Australia – Fund Equal Justice, is being led by the National Association of Community Legal Centres (NACLC).
“In 2014-2015, over 160,000 of Australia’s most disadvantaged and vulnerable people had to be turned away by community legal centres, largely due to a lack of resources,” NACLC Chairperson and Community Law Australia Spokesperson Rosslyn Monro said.
“Unresolved legal problems generate a range of flow-on effects, including significant costs to the government and broader community. Access to legal help can prevent or reduce the escalation of legal problems and reduce costs to the justice system and in other areas such as health and housing.”
Community legal centres (CLCs) are Not for Profit community-based legal services that provide free legal help and related services.
“Almost 50 per cent of our clients are in receipt of a Government benefit, 25.4 per cent identify as having a disability, and 13.3 per cent are Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander people,” Munro said.
“There is also a need to develop a process for determining adequate and sustainable longer-term funding contributions to the legal assistance sector by federal and state and territory governments in consultation with the sector and informed by robust data and evidence.”
The four publicly-funded legal assistance sectors in Australia are CLCs, Legal Aid Commissions, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services (ATSILS) and Family Violence Prevention Legal Services (FVPLS).
However, Munro said all four sectors are experiencing funding crises.
“NACLC supports increased funding to better address legal need across the legal assistance sector, in particular, reversal of funding cuts and long-term funding for the FVPLS, and the ATSILS,” she said.