Community Law Australia today welcomed increased funding to ensure that community legal centres across the country can service more people in need of legal help.
New funding announced by the Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus today of $33 million nationally over 4 years will mean that access to justice is not just a set of words, but closer to a reality for thousands of Australians that community legal centres are struggling to service because of limited resources.
Community Law Australia campaign spokesperson Carolyn Bond said that access to justice would become more tangible for people in regional areas, women struggling with family violence issues, people being ripped off by financial institutions, people with credit and debt problems, and communities who need help with environmental issues.
“Community Law Australia has long been calling for better resources to meet the needs of a diverse range of client needs in the community, and it is welcome to see that the Government also recognises the issue of access to justice in Australia,” Ms Bond said.
“We know that conservative estimates suggest that half a million Australians are missing out on legal help each year, but given the 63 per cent of community legal services reporting unmet demand, we believe this is only the tip of the iceberg.
“The Australian Council of Social Services (ACOSS) Community sector survey released recently showed that a shocking 63 per cent of services couldn’t meet demand, and 85 per cent of CLCs were forced to tighten or restrict service levels due to a lack of resources.
“Funding towards CLC programs like these are imperative to breaking down the access to justice crisis.
“Investing in existing CLCs gives exponential return on funding. Research shows that doubling funding can more than triple service delivery.
“The Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus has also called a Productivity Commission inquiry that will provide crucial insight into the extent of the access to justice crisis and how best to break down the barriers to accessing legal help.
“We want to thank the Federal Government for their recognition of community legal centres and their contribution of legal help to those in our community that need it most.
“This new funding will ensure that more in need of legal help will be able to access it, but there is still more to be done if we are going to improve access across the board,” Ms Bond said.