Media Release: Community Lawyers gather in face of funding cuts

Representatives from Community Legal Centres (CLCs) in every state and territory gathered in Sydney yesterday and today for crisis talks in the face of the looming 30% cut to Commonwealth funding for CLCs from 1 July 2017.

As part of the talks the National Association of Community Legal Centres (NACLC) with State and Territory CLC Associations convened an action in Belmore Park yesterday to call for the reversal of the funding cuts.

Hundreds of local community lawyers posed with gags over their mouths to symbolise the silencing effect funding cuts will have on centres and their clients, and many were dressed as “Lady Justice”.

“Yesterday our Advisory Council stood alongside local CLC representatives and the community to call on the Government to reverse the 30% funding cut,” said NACLC CEO Nassim Arrage.

“These cuts will have a devastating impact on people across Australia. We already turn away over 160,000 people every year and these cuts will mean even more people will miss out on the legal help they need.

“The community support at the event yesterday builds on strong support shown by the Senate with two motions this week as well as support from the Law Council and Law Societies, Law Deans, pro bono firms, churches and other community organisations,” said Mr Arrage.

“This support reflects the vital importance of the work of CLCs in communities across Australia and the devastating impact cuts will have.

“The upcoming Federal Budget represents the last formal opportunity for the Federal Government to reverse the cuts and invest in the sector before 1 July. The time for the Federal Government to act is now,” Mr Arrage said.

Photo credit to Mark Riboldi (5 photos): https://www.dropbox.com/sh/1gg4tqzbdhter6q/AABec6UtyXJtvwEx4Tc0DVBua?dl=0

For more information or to arrange an interview please contact:

Nassim Arrage: 0408 092 256
Amanda Alford: 0421 028 645

One year until crippling cuts to legal assistance sector

Today marks exactly one year until crippling 30% cuts to Commonwealth funding for Community Legal Centres of $34.83 million (over 3 years) take effect.

The National Association of Community Legal Centres (NACLC) has called on both major parties to make reversal of the funding cuts and urgent additional funding for CLCs and other legal assistance services a priority.

‘There is one day until the election and one year until the sector faces significant cuts that will have a real impact on people in every electorate across Australia. We already turn away over 160,000 people each year and that number is growing’ said Dan Stubbs, NACLC National Spokesperson.

‘We are disappointed that neither Prime Minister Turnbull or Mr Shorten have made access to justice or to vital legal help for vulnerable Australians a key election issue or priority despite the crisis facing legal assistance services, the courts and the justice system broadly’ he said.

‘While technically the cuts take effect in one year, we know that services will need to wind down ahead of that date, so we are facing a critical situation. It is absolutely vital that whichever party forms Government makes funding and support for CLCs as well as for Family Violence Prevention Legal Services, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Services and Legal Aid Commissions a priority’ he added.

‘We will continue to work hard after the election and over the coming year to make it clear that our clients, who are some of the most vulnerable and disadvantaged people in the community, will suffer unless the funding crisis is addressed’ he concluded.

NACLC reiterates its calls for:

  1. Reversal of the Commonwealth funding cuts to CLCs under the National Partnership Agreement on Legal Assistance amounting to $34.83 million from 1 July 2017 to 30 June 2020
  2. An immediate injection of $200 million per year to legal assistance services, as recommended by the Productivity Commission, which should be shared between the Commonwealth (60%) and the States and Territories (40%). This should equate to at least an additional $24 million per year allocated to CLCs ($14.4 million p.a. Commonwealth and $9.6 million p.a. from States/Territories)
  3. A commitment by all levels of Government to implementing an appropriate process for determining adequate and sustainable longer-term funding contributions for legal assistance in consultation with the sector.

To arrange an interview or for more information please contact:

Daniel Stubbs, National Spokesperson, 0437 253 543
Amanda Alford, Director Policy and Advocacy, 0421 028 645
Jo Scard, Media Adviser, 0457 725 953

Last chance for parties to prioritise legal help for vulnerable people

The peak bodies for legal assistance services today joined forces calling for all parties to prioritise funding for vital legal services ahead of the Federal Election this weekend.

The National Association of Community Legal Centres (NACLC), National Family Violence Prevention Legal Services Forum (NFVPLS) and National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services (NATSILS) expressed concern about the funding cuts and challenges facing legal assistance services and called for urgent action.

Community Legal Centres (CLCs) and Aboriginal Torres Strait Islander Legal Services (ATSILS) face funding cuts of up to 30% nationally and Family Violence Prevention Legal Services have had their national program abolished and are significantly underfunded.

‘Community legal centres across Australia are being forced to turn away hundreds of thousands of people each year at the same time as we are seeing a rise in demand for services. Whichever party forms Government, it is crucial that ensuring people can get the legal help they need is a priority’ said Dan Stubbs, National Spokesperson for NACLC.

‘In terms of CLC funding, we are concerned that neither major party has fully committed to reversing the broad funding cuts, or implementing the recommendations made by the Productivity Commission for urgent additional funding for the sector’ he added.

Convenor of the National FVPLS Forum Antoinette Braybrook expressed concern about the situation facing FVPLS across Australia:

‘Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women are 34 times more likely to be hospitalised from family violence and 10 times more likely to die of violent assault than other women. This is the epicentre of the national family violence crisis’ she said.

‘FVPLSs respond to this crisis by providing essential services for safety of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander victims/survivors of family violence. We are calling for the reinstatement of our National FVPLS Program with long-term funding to create certainty for our services across the country’ she said.

‘Whoever wins the election on Saturday we need a greater commitment to ensure that FVPLSs are adequately funded to ensure that all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander victims/survivors of family violence can access our culturally safe services. We have been disappointed by the failure to back up stated concern for addressing family violence against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women with adequate funding’ she concluded.

‘The ATSILS provide vital legal help to vulnerable Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and they’re in crisis mode trying to cope with current demand. Without the provision of new funding the ATSILS will be required to withdraw from front line services in 2017 leaving more Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to cycle through the justice system with enormous social, cultural and economic costs to this country’ said Wayne Muir, Co-Chair of NATSILS.

‘We have been fighting hard to secure funding stability, particularly to allow the ATSILS to deliver vital services in family law. Adequately funding culturally competent family law services will help us invest in the front end before our children and our families reach a crisis point. It will help us turn around the state of access to justice for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ Mr Muir concluded.

‘Importantly, neither the ALP or Coalition funding commitments are sufficient to address the broad funding cuts or to solve the crisis facing the legal assistance sector. We need an additional investment in the sector consistent with the Productivity Commission’s recommendations, as well as a long-term commitment to adequately funding the sector’ said Ms Braybrook.

‘Time is running out for the parties to show the sector and people across Australia that they care about ensuring people can get access to the legal help they need’ concluded Mr Stubbs.

NACLC, NFVPLS and NATSILS call on all parties to commit to:

  1. Reversing funding cuts facing Community Legal Centres ($34.83mill over the period 2017-18 to 2019-2020) and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services ($18mill over the period 2017-18 to 2019-2020) and reinstating the National FVPLS Program.
  2. Implementing the Productivity Commission’s recommendation from its Access to Justice Arrangements Inquiry and providing an immediate injection of $200 million per year into the legal assistance service sector, which should be shared between the Commonwealth (60%) and the States and Territories (40%).
  3. Committing to implementing an appropriate process for determining adequate and sustainable longer-term funding contributions to the legal assistance sector by both Commonwealth and State and Territory Governments, in consultation with the sector.
  4. Funding for NACLC, NFVPLS and NATSILS in recognition of their key role as peak bodies.

For further information or to arrange an interview contact:

Dan Stubbs, National Spokesperson NACLC, 0437 253 543
Andy Gargett for Antoinette Braybrook, Convenor, National FVPLS Forum, 0457 544 591
Karly Warner for Wayne Muir, Co-Chair NATSILS, 0423 610 587
Amanda Alford, Director Policy and Advocacy NACLC, 0421 028 645

Media Release: Free legal help for children, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists and consumers under threat

The National Association of Community Legal Centres (NACLC) today called on the Commonwealth Government to continue and increase funding for national Community Legal Centres (CLCs).

There are almost 200 Community Legal Centres across Australia, including a small number of national Community Legal Centres such as the National Children’s and Youth Law Centre, Arts Law and the Insurance Law Service at Financial Rights Legal Centre. The national centres receive funding directly from the Commonwealth Government rather than through the National Partnership Agreement for Legal Assistance (NPA).

‘We are extremely concerned about the future of CLCs across Australia, including our national CLCs. CLCs funded under the NPA are facing a 30% cut nationally. In addition, many centres are underfunded and there is no guarantee of any funding for two of the national centres past 1 July next year’ said Dan Stubbs, NACLC National Spokesperson.

‘Under the NPA Commonwealth funding is provided to the States and Territories to allocate. That system doesn’t work for national centres so they are still directly funded by the Commonwealth Government. However, there doesn’t appear to be a plan or a commitment for these national centres’ he added.

‘The services that these national centres provide are a crucial part of the work CLCs do across Australia. They help children and young people, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and people who have a problem with their insurance company’ said Mr Stubbs.

Children and Young People

The award-winning National Children’s and Youth Law Centre provides free online legal assistance to children, young people and their parents across Australia, directly helping 2,300 people in 2015 and providing online information to 1 million visitors.

‘We help children and young people solve their legal problems such as family and domestic violence and homelessness. Because our innovative, online model really works there is an ever-increasing demand for our help, but we are now being forced to turn away one in every three young people that contact us’ said Matthew Keeley, Director of the National Children’s and Youth Law Centre.

‘Up to 1,000 young people will miss out from 1 July because our Commonwealth grant allows us to support only one and a half staff. You would think that ours is exactly the type of service that the Commonwealth Government should be supporting more fully – innovative, online and effective’ he said.

‘By helping kids solve their legal problems, we improve their overall wellbeing and ensure they can get on with their lives. Without an increase in funding, there will be a real impact on children, young people and their parents across Australia’ he added.

Consumers in Financial Stress

The Financial Rights Legal Centre provides free legal assistance to consumers in financial stress across consumer credit, banking, debt recovery and insurance.

‘We helped over 26,500 people with free legal assistance or financial counselling last year. One of our key services is the Insurance Law Service (ILS), a national specialist consumer insurance advice service, which took roughly one third of those calls (8,500). For people facing the double whammy of being seriously ill and then being refused an income protection claim, or having their house burned down only to find they are the subject of suspicion by their insurer, we are the only free, specialist service available in the country. Unfortunately, the future of the ILS remains in question even as demand for the service continues to grow’ said Karen Cox, Coordinator of the Financial Rights Legal Centre.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Artists and Arts Organisations

Robyn Ayres, CEO of the Arts Law Centre, is concerned about the future of the Artists in the Black program: ‘Our Artists in the Black program provides crucial legal help to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists and arts organisations nationally. We help to prevent exploitation, ensuring artists are fairly rewarded for their work and that Indigenous Cultural and Intellectual Property is respected and protected’ Ms Ayres said.

‘We are extremely concerns that the Artists in the Black program is threatened due to a lack of Commonwealth funding’ she added.

As a result, NACLC calls on the Commonwealth Government to:

  1. Reverse the Commonwealth funding cuts to CLCs under the National Partnership Agreement on Legal Assistance amounting to $34.83 million from 1 July 2017 to 30 June 2020
  2. Provide guaranteed and sustainable funding to national CLCs funded outside the NPA from 1 July 2017 onwards
  3. Immediately inject $120 million per year into the broader legal assistance system, including at least an additional $14.4 million per year allocated to CLCs (both NPA and non-NPA funded)
  4. Commit to implementing an appropriate process for determining adequate and sustainable longer-term funding contributions for legal assistance in consultation with the sector.

Event alert:

The national centres are involved in and are available to comment on a number of events this week, including:

  • Wednesday 8 June 2016: National Arts Election Debate
  • Friday 10 June 2016: National Child Rights Taskforce (co-convened by the National Children’s and Youth Law Centre and UNICEF) launch of the Australian Child Rights Progress Report at the Australian Human Rights Commission, including a chapter on access to justice.

To arrange an interview or for more information please contact:

Matthew Keeley, Director, National Children’s and Youth Law Centre, 0434 046 120
Karen Cox, Coordinator, Financial Rights Legal Centre, 0409 835134
Robyn Ayres, CEO, Arts Law Centre, 0404 054 639
Amanda Alford, NACLC Director Policy and Advocacy, 0421 028 645
Jackie Hanafie, NACLC Media Adviser, 0412 652 439

Media Alert: Community Law Australia spokesperson available for comment

National Association of Community Legal Centres Chair and Community Law Australia Spokesperson Rosslyn Monro is available for comment at Parliament House today from 9am to 4pm to provide commentary on the impact of funding cuts to legal assistance services announced in the Federal Budget last night and additional funding for family violence.

  • Rosslyn Monro available for comment at Parliament House from 9am-4pm
  • Alternatively, Ms Monro is available on 0407 633 084
  • Ms Monro can provide commentary on overall funding cuts, impact of cuts, role of legal assistance in responding to family violence and the additional funding for family violence, the Productivity Commission’s Access to Justice Arrangements Inquiry Report and other related issues

Quotes attributable to Rosslyn Monro:

“This years Budget is a missed opportunity to reverse funding cuts to community legal centres of 30% from 1 July next year.”

“We are extremely disappointed that the Government hasn’t prioritised access to legal help for people across Australia”. 

“CLCs helped over 215,000 people with free legal advice last year and had to turn away over 160,000 largely due to a lack of funding – these are the people that will suffer as a result of this Budget”.

We welcome the additional funding for family violence, however it remains unclear how much of that will come to legal assistance services, and is unlikely to counter the impact of our overall funding cuts.

Community legal centres help people with a wide range of legal problems. While family law and family violence are our top two areas of law, reversal of the funding cuts in additional to any extra family violence funding is crucial to ensure we can continue to assist people in areas such as credit and debt, housing, employment, and social security.

Facing a deficit of $37.1 billion in this Budget we understand the Government needs to make difficult decisions. However, it has ignored the expert recommendations made by bodies such as the Productivity Commission in forming this Budget, in particular the clear view that investing broadly in legal assistance services makes economic sense, and that there is an urgent need for additional funding.

For further information or to arrange an interview contact:

Rosslyn Monro, Chairperson, 0407 633 084
Amanda Alford, Director Policy and Advocacy, 0421 028 645
Jackie Hanafie, Media Adviser, 0412 652 439

Open letter to the Council of Australian Governments

Dear Prime Minister, Premiers, Chief Ministers and Australian Local Government Association representatives,

We write to you today, ahead of the 1 April 2016 meeting of COAG, to call for your collective resolution of the growing threat of inequity in the access to justice for people across Australia.

Over 216,000 people receive free legal help each year from Community Legal Centres across Australia. Assistance is provided on a range of legal matters including family violence and family law, tenancy, credit and debt and consumer issues. As confirmed by the Productivity Commission[1], government investment in these services makes good economic sense. Community Legal Centres prevent the escalation of often relatively simple issues into complex legal matters that have expensive implications for Legal Aid Commissions and the Courts, as well as other essential community service systems.

Despite this, under the National Partnership Agreement on Legal Assistance (NPA), national funding to Community Legal Centres will be cut by 30% from 2017, equating to $34.83 million between 1 July 2017 and 30 June 2020. Already over 160,000 people have to be turned away each year due to inadequate resourcing. It is clear that more funding is required, not less.

In recognising the critical role played by legal services in preventing and responding to domestic and family violence, the report of the Victorian Royal Commission into Family Violence released this week calls for increased investment in Community Legal Centres.[2]

The Commonwealth’s investment through the Women’s Safety Package is also a clear acknowledgement of the role played by Community Legal Centres in addressing this national priority issue. However, providing additional funding to 10 of the 150 Community Legal Centres funded under the NPA does not equate to the maintenance of the well established supports for this target group provided by Community Legal Centres across Australia.

COAG’s capacity to address its own priority of preventing violence against women and their children now and into the future is significantly undermined by the cuts instituted through the National Partnership Agreement.

Unlike other Commonwealth/State partnerships, the NPA is silent with respect to State and Territory contributions. Not only does the NPA compound the inequity in the access to justice for ordinary Australians between jurisdictions, it fails to provide a mechanism to agree appropriate arrangements for current and future government investment in essential community legal services.

The Commonwealth’s decision to cut funding under the NPA without proposing how this funding shortfall will be addressed is a fundamental example of the risk to funding certainty and durability highlighted in the Reform of Federation White Paper process.[3] Without resolution of this very problematic financial outlook, State and Territory governments will be left to bear the political risk of implementing a reduction in service availability that also has resource implications for other State/Territory funded services.

It is clear that a collaborative federal approach to preventing escalation in the inequity in access to justice is required. This should not only focus on reversing the cuts scheduled under the NPA. It needs to redress the current shortfalls in the system and establish a way for agreeing how legal need is sustainably and equitably addressed into the future.

In recognition of the inadequacy of the current funding arrangements the Productivity Commission has called for an immediate injection of $200 million a year into the broader legal assistance service system, with 60% to be contributed by the Commonwealth Government and 40% by the States and Territories.[4] This recommendation was made to address the most pressing needs whilst a more accurate assessment of future requirements can be conducted. Whilst discussion is required to determine the best distribution of funding across the service system, in keeping with current arrangements, at least 12% of this immediate injection must be provided to Community Legal Centres.

Accordingly, the National Association of Community Legal Centres’ campaign Community Law Australia – Fund Equal Justice calls for:

  1. Reversal of the Commonwealth funding cuts under the National Partnership Agreement on Legal Assistance amounting to $34.83 million over the period 2017/18 to 2019/20;
  1. An immediate injection of $200 million per year into the broader legal assistance service system to be shared between the Commonwealth (60%) and the States and Territories (40%). This should equate to at least an additional $24 million per year allocated to Community Legal Centres ($14.4 million p.a. Commonwealth and $9.6 million p.a. States and Territories).
  1. A commitment by all levels of Government to implementing an appropriate process for determining adequate and sustainable longer-term funding contributions for legal assistance in consultation with the sector.

Open the link to view a PDF of the letter: Open letter to COAG 31 March 2016

[1] Productivity Commission Inquiry Report, Access to Justice Arrangements, No. 72, 5 September 2014

[2] Victorian Royal Commission into Family Violence, Recommendation 69.

[3] Australian Government, Reform of the federation Discussion Paper (2015) p.5

[4] Productivity Commission Inquiry Report, Access to Justice Arrangements, No. 72, 5 September 2014

Community legal centres among services facing greatest demand challenge, according to ACOSS survey

Australia’s 200 community legal centres, which give free legal help to low-income people, are among the community services facing the biggest demand challenges according to an ACOSS survey released today.

A large majority of community legal centres are unable to assist all those who seek their help according to the ACOSS findings, which reveal that 72 per cent of centres report they cannot meet demand.

‘The findings offer strong support for a significant increase in legal assistance funding, instead of the deep cuts that were inflicted on the community legal sector in the last Federal Budget,’ said Community Law Australia national spokesperson, Carolyn Bond AO, today.

‘The Federal Budget cuts and further cuts in prospect for the sector will see demand challenges worsen, not improve from what is already a crisis level of unmet legal need,’ Ms Bond said.

The ACOSS data underline last week’s Productivity Commission finding that the legal assistance sector – including community legal centres, Aboriginal legal services and legal aid – is underfunded by at least $200 million.

‘The reality is that funding is not being increased, it is not being maintained – it is being significantly cut, at the same time that new Federal Government restrictions on advocacy make it difficult for individual community legal centres to speak out,’ Ms Bond said.

The ACOSS survey found that services prioritising people on low incomes or with specific needs are least able to meet demand, a finding supported by community legal centre data. In Victoria, for example, 82 per cent of the more than 60,000 people a year who receive free legal help earn less than $26,000 per year, and are unable either to access legal aid or afford a private lawyer.

‘Governments of all levels need to increase funding to community legal centres, or more and more people who can’t afford a lawyer will miss out on access to free legal help,’ Ms Bond said.

‘The Australia Institute conservatively estimates that half a million Australians miss out on legal help each year. However, with 72 per cent of legal services recording unmet demand, our concern is that this figure is in actual fact much higher,’ Ms Bond said.

Community legal centres help people with legal problems arising through family violence, employment, housing, and credit and debt – problems that can have a significant impact on people’s lives.

‘These problems affect everyone, but it is the disadvantaged members of our society who are least able to access help,’ Ms Bond concluded.

To arrange an interview, please contact Darren Lewin-Hill on 0488 773 535.

Download this media release (PDF)

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

Attorney-General wrong in media statement on cuts to community legal centres, says national access to justice campaign

A media statement issued last Saturday (17/5) by Federal Attorney-General George Brandis on Federal Budget cuts to community legal centres is wrong and miscasts the extent of the cuts, according to national access to justice campaign, Community Law Australia.

In a statement issued to the ABC’s AM program and broadcast last Saturday, the Attorney-General stated that funding withdrawn from community legal centres was “supplementary only”, and “would have expired at the end of the financial year in any event”.

In fact, 57 community legal centres were advised last week that the last two years of signed four-year agreements will no longer be funded. These funds were not “expiring” and centres have frontline staffing and services operating in expectation of the fulfilment of those agreements.

“The additional $6 million cut announced in the Federal Budget follows the $43.1 million cuts to legal assistance services announced last December. The additional centres to be hit by last Tuesday’s cut are yet to be identified,” said Community Law Australia Chair, Liana Buchanan, today.

“We’re talking about free legal help for disadvantaged Australians experiencing relationship breakdown, workplace mistreatment, family violence, debt, eviction, homelessness and other legal problems that severely impact their lives.

“There is strong evidence that community legal centres are grossly underfunded and already struggle to meet increasing demand for help with serious legal problems from people who cannot afford a private lawyer. Conservative estimates tell us half a million Australians miss out on the legal help they need each year.

“To inflict further deep cuts against a base of clearly inadequate funding and increasing demand will only worsen the access to justice crisis in Australia,” Ms Buchanan said.

The cuts have come with proposed new restrictions effective from 1 July 2014 precluding the use of Commonwealth funding for law reform and policy advocacy by community legal centres.

The new funding conditions are at odds with a draft Productivity Commission report released in April on access to justice arrangements. The report places advocacy at the core of what community legal centres should do, explicitly recognising the efficiency and community benefit of law reform and systemic work. (see pp.624–5).

“We note the Attorney-General’s statement that the findings of the Productivity Commission review will ‘inform future decisions concerning legal aid services’ but query why the Government is acting contrary to the Commission’s clear advice by acting to limit law reform and policy work,” Ms Buchanan said.

“If, in the words of the Attorney-General, we’re talking about protecting ‘the most vulnerable Australians’, then the Federal Government should support the vital role of community legal centres in fixing bad laws and practices, and in providing free legal help in thousands of individual cases each year – cases that provide unique insights into legal problems and how they can be addressed.

“These are essential aspects of access to justice that the Budget cuts and restrictions on law reform and policy advocacy directly undermine,” Ms Buchanan concluded.

Background information

Community legal centres condemn budget cuts, ABC AM, 17 May 2014

(The Attorney-General’s full written statement is available.)

Draft Productivity Commission Report on Access to Justice Arrangements

Related media releases

Federal Budget exposes more funding cuts as A-G Brandis stops community legal centres speaking out on unfair laws and practices

Broad cuts to legal assistance services will fuel access to justice crisis

Defunding of Aboriginal legal services peak a dangerous “economy”

Download this media release (PDF)

To arrange a media interview or for further information, please contact Darren Lewin-Hill on 0488 773 535.

This media release was amended on Tuesday 20 May 2014 to correct minor details regarding reference to the ABC, and the timing of A-G Brandis’ statement (Saturday, not Friday).

Free advice and legal help available for bushfire affected

Free legal advice is now available for residents who have been affected by the recent fires in New South Wales.

Carolyn Bond, Community Law Australia spokesperson, said that people affected by fire and flood often had questions and concerns about their insurance claims that community legal centres could help with.

“There’s nothing worse than battling for your life and possessions and then having to get your head around paperwork and insurance company policies to get your claim,” Ms Bond said.

“The Insurance Law Service, which operates out of the Consumer Credit Legal Centre NSW is available to give free advice to people about their insurance matters. There is also a range of factsheets that people can access to make sure they are informed.

“For those who have been forced to flee and have damage claims as a result of the electricity being turned off for a few days, to those who have lost their homes and their possessions – it is good to know you can get the advice of a community lawyer if you feel you need one, particularly when navigating the complexities of an insurance claim.

“Community legal centres are here to help when it’s time to turn to the practicalities of recovering from fire damage and claiming insurance for your losses.

Insurance Law Service Principal Solicitor, Alexandra Kelly, said they have an insurance law advice line that operates on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

“We would like our hotline to be open 24/7 but we are only able to provide a three day service because of limited funding,” Ms Kelly said.

“We are here to help people who are concerned or unsure where to start with their insurance policy and the claims process.”

Carolyn Bond said that it was vital that people knew where they could turn for help for such matters.

“The devastation of the NSW bushfires is of concern to us all, and it’s important that people know where to go for help once the fire has been put out, and its time to rebuild,” Ms Bond said.

For free legal help:

• Insurance Law Centre: 1300 663 464 or www.insurancelaw.org.au.

• Law Access NSW Bushfire Emergency to access Legal Aid: 1800 801 529

For free financial counselling:

• For credit or debt matters: 1800 007 007

Download this Media Release (PDF)