National conference hears widespread concerns over restrictions on advocacy by community legal centres

Thursday 14 August 2014 – for immediate release

A national conference of community legal centres in Alice Springs has heard widespread concern over the impact on disadvantaged clients of restrictions on use of federal funding for advocacy, policy and law reform.

The restrictions place at risk effective law reform work that can prevent legal problems arising in areas such as family violence, homelessness and disability.

The restrictions introduced on 1 July run counter to a draft Productivity Commission finding that advocacy and law reform are central to community legal work.

In practice the broader effect of the restrictions will be that many centres decide not to speak publicly about any issue over fears their funding may be at risk.

The restrictions coincide with significant funding cuts to community legal centres through MYEFO and the May Federal Budget.

Shadow Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus will address the national conference at the Alice Springs Convention Centre 1.30pm today together with Emeritus Professor Jim Ife, of the Centre for Human Rights Education, Curtin University.

Community legal centres provide free legal help for people who do not qualify for legal aid, but cannot afford a private lawyer – a group that includes a large number of disadvantaged people, including, for example, homeless people and women facing family violence. A conservative estimate by the Australia Institute has found that 500,000 people miss out on legal help every year in Australia.

Available for comment:

Carolyn Bond AO, National Spokesperson, Community Law Australia
Liana Buchanan, Chair, Community Law Australia
Michael Smith, National Convenor,
National Association of Community Legal Centres.

To arrange media comment:

Darren Lewin-Hill
0488 773 535
Communications Manager
Federation of Community Legal Centres