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Community legal centre funding reinstatement a lifeline for thousands of Australians

Community legal centre funding reinstatement a lifeline for thousands of Australians

By LIV Media

Access to Justice 

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The federal government's decision to abandon funding cuts to the community legal sector will help restore access to justice for thousands of vulnerable Australians, LIV president Belinda Wilson said.

Several Victorian community legal centres (CLCs) had announced they would have to cut vital legal services as a result of the end of a federal funding round that would have cut $35 million from the sector as of 1 July.

Community legal centres across Australia help more than 215,000 people, helping to prevent legal problems escalating to more serious issues, such as a fine or debt sending someone into homelessness or an unfair dismissal putting a family into poverty.

Among the Victorian CLCs that said they would have to cut services were the Women's Legal Service, which was going to have to axe its duty lawyer and turn away an additional 600 women a year, Fitzroy Legal Service, which was going to have to close down its Friday night service, and the Goulburn Valley and Loddon Campaspe CLCs, which were going to have to lose their dedicated family lawyers. YouthLaw said it would have to cut its outreach service for young people facing legal problems.

Ms Wilson said that the reinstatement of the funding represented a lifeline to thousands of Victoria's most vulnerable who are not eligible for legal aid but could not afford the services of lawyers.

However, Ms Wilson pointed out that there was still a need to properly fund legal aid as recommended by the Productivity Commission 2014 inquiry which said an additional $200 million was required to properly ensure access to justice for all Australians.

"While we applaud the reinstatement of this funding, community legal centres were sending away hundreds of people needing help even before the cuts" she said. “We would urge the federal government to provide extra funding to support the work of the community legal sector.”


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