CLCs across the country have written to the major party candidates in their local electorates ahead of Election Day in a quest for more clarity about their plans for access to justice in the community.
Legal problems can crop up at any time – but access to quality legal help shouldn’t depend on your bank balance or where you live.
Despite recent increases in funding to individual centres there is still huge unmet demand for free legal help among Australians who can’t afford to pay for a private lawyer.
Below are some examples of high demand and level of service delivered by CLCs to residents in their local electorates:
Last year SCALES recorded 1,162 requests for legal services they were unable to assist with due to lack of resources.
Gai Walker, Managing Director of SCALES, said: “The issues our CLC helps with are important matters that can have a huge impact on an individual or family’s stability, wellbeing and ability to participate successfully in society.”
Last year Peninsula CLC provided over 7,000 free legal advices, with ongoing assistance given in over 2,000 matters.
Jackie Galloway CEO of Peninsula CLC, said that even with substantial volunteer and pro bono support, they can only partially meet demand for free legal help.
“Sometimes clients are waiting for over a month for an appointment, and less than one in three clients are provided with ongoing assistance,” Ms Galloway said.
Last year Gippsland CLS had to decline a request from the Latrobe Valley Magistrates Court to attend an additional family violence intervention order day to provide essential assistance to applicants. The Service is also unable to extend the applicant duty lawyer service to the other courts in Gippsland due to lack of funds.
Jessica Brake, Principal Solicitor at Mackay Regional CLC said that usually they are booked three to four weeks in advance and that local demand for legal help was high.
“Marrickville Legal Centre has been providing free legal help to people who can’t afford a lawyer since 1979. We provide vital legal help to residents cross three electorates, and we are concerned that Access to justice has not yet been addressed in the local area,” Michael Walton, Principal Solicitor of Marrickville LC said.
To read the individual media releases by each CLC see below: