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AGs warn on cuts to family violence legal aid

Briefs

Cite as: April 2015 89 (4) LIJ, p.17

Lobbying for legal aid dollars has intensified in the lead up to the 2015 federal budget.

In a letter sent in March, state and territory Attorneys-General joined to warn federal Attorney-General Senator George Brandis (pictured) that proposed cuts to legal aid from July would most affect women and children who are the primary victims of domestic violence.

The AGs came together in their concern about possible funding cuts of more than $40 million over four years to legal aid commissions, community legal centres and Aboriginal legal centres.

It was difficult, they said, to reconcile any cuts with the federal government’s recognition of the need to tackle family violence.

The federal government said it was committed to funding front-line family violence services – it had committed $1.3 billion over four years – and that it was in the process of reconfiguring how legal services organisations were funded.

Victoria gets the lowest share of per-capita federal funding for legal assistance under the National Partnership Agreement, which ends in June. The 2014 Productivity Commission report called for an additional $200 million for national legal assistance services.

The Law Council of Australia (LCA) called on the federal government to re-commit funding to Indigenous family violence prevention legal services. Indigenous people are hospitalised due to family violence at up to 33 times the rate of non-Indigenous people.

Meanwhile, on International Women’s Day on 8 March, it was announced that federal and state governments will contribute towards a $30 million national awareness campaign to stop domestic violence.

That same week, the federal opposition promised a crisis summit on domestic violence within 100 days of achieving office. The government replied by noting its upcoming COAG meeting on domestic violence.

The state government has allocated $4 million to meet the greater demand for family violence support services expected during the Royal Commission.

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