Media Release: Legal assistance services key for access to justice for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and communities confirms new Parliamentary Report

The National Association of Community Legal Centres (NACLC) has welcomed the Final Report released yesterday by the Senate Finance and Public Administration Committee into ‘Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander experience of law enforcement and justice services’. The Report contains a number of important recommendations aimed at ensuring better access to justice for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

The Report recognises the vital role legal assistance services such as Family Violence Prevention Legal Services, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services, Community Legal Centres and Legal Aid Commission play in providing free legal help to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people across Australia.

“We know the crucial role that legal assistance services provide in assisting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people access the legal help they need. We welcome the Report recommendations and in particular recognition of the urgent need for additional funding for these services,” said Dan Stubbs, NACLC National Spokesperson.

“Currently, the Report’s recommendations are contradicted by funding cuts faced by Community Legal Centres and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services, and underfunding of the other legal assistance services” he added.

The Report also includes important recommendations in relation to the need for funding and support for justice reinvestment approaches, justice targets and review of laws that have a disproportionate impact on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people such as mandatory sentencing laws.

“As a member of the Change the Record Steering Committee, NACLC is also pleased to see the endorsement of justice reinvestment approaches and a recommendation in relation to justice targets, which are a vital tool in attempting to address the over-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the criminal justice system” said Mr Stubbs.

“This is yet another important Report that outlines the key steps necessary to seriously address the barriers to accessing justice faced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. We hope that the Commonwealth Government as well as State and Territory Governments consider the Report and work constructively with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and organisations, as well as legal assistance bodies such as NACLC to implement the recommendations” he concluded.

NACLC, along with other legal assistance peak bodies, made a written submission and provided evidence as part of the Inquiry. The NACLC submission is available here.

For further information or to arrange an interview contact: 

Dan Stubbs, NACLC National Spokesperson, 0437 253 543
Amanda Alford, NACLC Director Policy and Advocacy, 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

Access to Justice Election Scorecard

Image of Election Scorecard

The Access to Justice Election Scorecard highlights where the major political parties in Australia stand on funding Community Legal Centres and other legal assistance services.   

The results show the Greens are the best performing party when it comes to prioritising funding for Australia’s Community Legal Centres, followed by the ALP and then the Coalition.

Key points:

The Coalition and ALP have not committed to the broad reversal of Commonwealth funding cuts for community legal centres (CLCs) under the National Partnership Agreement on Legal Assistance, amounting to $34.83M over the period 2017/18 to 2019/20. However, the ALP’s funding commitment for family-violence related work amounts to more than the cuts. The Greens have committed to a full reversal of the funding cuts.

The Coalition and ALP have not committed to implementing the Productivity Commission recommendation to invest an additional $120M per year in legal assistance, including a minimum of $14.4M to CLCs. The Greens have committed to funding full implementation of the recommendation. 

The Coalition and ALP have promised CLCs a joint share of $30M family-violence related funding over 3 years. In addition, the ALP has promised $39.3M in family-violence related funding over 3 years, and $10.8M in funding for Environmental Defenders Offices over 4 years. The Greens have also have pledged $14.5M for Environmental Defenders Offices over 4 years and $1.67M to the National Association of Community Legal Centres (NACLC) over 4 years.

The ALP and Greens are committed to removing restrictions on the use of Commonwealth funds for policy, advocacy and law reform. No commitment has been made by the Coalition.

The Coalition, ALP and Greens have committed to providing varying levels of funding for other legal assistance services including Family Violence Prevention Legal Services, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services and Legal Aid Commissions.

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

Open letter from Pro Bono Practices in Australian Law firms

Below is an open letter from Pro Bono Practices in Australian Law firms in support of an adequately funded legal assistance sector.

20 June 2016

Pro Bono and the Legal Assistance Sector
In 2015, leaders of pro bono practices at Australian law firms wrote to the Attorneys General in all Australian governments, to advocate that the renewal of the National Partnership Agreement on Legal Assistance Services be guided by the relevant findings made by the Productivity Commission in its Report into Access to Justice Arrangements.

Our concerns have been echoed in the Law Council of Australia’s #LegalAidMatters campaign and Community Law Australia’s #FundEqualJustice campaign.

The Productivity Commission observed that not providing legal assistance for unresolved civil problems for low-income and disadvantaged people is a false economy, as the costs of unresolved problems are shifted to other areas of government spending such as health care, housing and child protection. Numerous Australian and overseas studies demonstrate the net public benefits which come from legal assistance expenditure to resolve civil legal problems for low-income and disadvantaged people.

Adopt the Productivity Commission’s recommendations for civil legal assistance
We continue to urge the Commonwealth, States and Territories to commit to a realistic plan which will adopt the recommendations of the Productivity Commission in respect of addressing unmet legal need for low-income and disadvantaged Australians, and which will move towards the additional $200m of annual Legal Assistance Sector civil funding recommended by the Productivity Commission, including an additional annual $120m from the Commonwealth.

Reverse the cuts
We are concerned about the impact of the present arrangements to cease the restoration of Commonwealth funding for Legal Assistance Sector providers at 30 June 2017. Scale efficiencies and funding uncertainties are already a challenge for the community legal sector. Government-funded civil law assistance for disadvantaged Australians is delivered in large part through 200 small and under-resourced independent CLCs which must rely heavily on volunteer lawyers while facing complex multiple and short-term funding arrangements. The present arrangements further reduce the capacity of CLCs to assist low-income and disadvantaged clients.

Pro bono work cannot fill the gaps
Pro bono legal assistance cannot be a substitute for government-funded Legal Assistance Services in Australia. This is much more than a statement of fundamental principle. Not just philosophically, but also as a matter of practical reality, pro bono assistance by private lawyers could not possibly fill the gap which exists. Australia has a pro bono culture stronger than almost every other country, and yet pro bono work at large firms might amount to less than 3% of the capacity of Legal Assistance Services to assist low-income and disadvantaged clients.

We have little or no pro bono capacity to assist with family law, criminal law, immigration or with clients in regional Australia. We cannot come close to meeting the level of unmet legal need which will be created by a reduction of CLC capacity.

There is no effective pro bono assistance without an effective Legal Assistance Sector
We cannot provide effective pro bono assistance without an effective Legal Assistance Sector. Virtually none of our pro bono work for low-income and disadvantaged people could be performed without partnerships and relationships with Legal Assistance Services, including with CLCs.

The individual clients we assist on a pro bono basis usually are referred to us by a Legal Assistance Service or attend one of the outreach clinics we conduct with a Legal Assistance Service. The delivery of many pro bono services by the private legal profession requires a partnership or collaboration with effectively-functioning Legal Assistance Services.

Yours sincerely

Nicky Friedman – Director of Community Engagement, Allens
Sarah Morton-Ramwell – Partner, Global Head Pro Bono and Corporate Responsibility, Ashurst
Kate Gillingham – Pro Bono Counsel, Baker & McKenzie
David Hillard – Partner, Pro Bono National Practice Group Leader, Clayton Utz
Catriona Martin – Pro Bono Director – Asia Pacific, DLA Piper Australia
Michelle Hannon – Pro Bono Partner, Gilbert+Tobin
Jillian Mitford-Burgess – Pro Bono Special Counsel, Henry Davis York
Brooke Massender –  Head of Pro Bono & Citizenship Australia & Asia, Herbert Smith Freehills
Joanna Renkin – Pro Bono Community Support Partner, Lander & Rogers
Karen Keogh – National Pro Bono Leader, Tress Cox Lawyers

 

Media Release: Community Lawyers vital in assisting people experiencing elder abuse

The National Association of Community Legal Centres (NACLC) today acknowledged the importance of World Elder Abuse Awareness Day in raising awareness of the abuses – physical, social, financial, psychological or sexual, which older people may experience.

Community Legal Centres (CLCs) provide free legal advice to all Australians including assisting older people who are experiencing all forms of elder abuse.

Seniors Rights Victoria is a specialist CLC that helps prevent elder abuse and safeguard the rights, dignity and independence of older people. “Our clients include older people facing financial ruin and homelessness resulting from the abuse of power of attorney by family members, older people hit by drug-affected family members and women abused by their husbands all their lives now being abused by their children,” said Jenny Blakey, Manager of Seniors Rights Victoria.

“The need for CLC’s like Seniors Rights Victoria to address elder abuse in our community is great – the problem is only going to increase as our population ages,” she said.

Bill Mitchell, Principal Solicitor at Townsville Community Legal Service said “it is time that the Commonwealth developed a National Framework on Elder Abuse, leading the work of the states and territories to combat elder abuse.”

The Director of Brisbane’s Caxton Legal Centre, Scott McDougall, highlighted the vital role of CLCs in combatting the growth of this peculiar form of domestic violence. “CLCs, with their strong ties to communities, are best placed to respond to the special needs of socially isolated elderly Australians – yet our ability to service these highly vulnerable clients is about to be severely curtailed by debilitating funding cuts,” Mr McDougall said.

The Senior Rights Service, assist older people across New South Wales. From July next year they are facing a 25 percent funding cut. “This would mean the organisation would have to reduce the working hours of its solicitors. If these cuts pass, 1400 vulnerable and marginalised older people in NSW will not have access to justice” said Craig Gear, President of Seniors Rights Service.

As a result, this World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, NACLC reiterates its call to all political parties for:

  1. The 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 into the broader legal assistance service system, 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 and Territories); and
  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:

Scott McDougall, Caxton Legal Centre, (QLD) 0400 547 390
Bill Mitchell, Townsville Community Legal Service 0459 430 849
Craig Gear, Seniors Rights Service, (NSW) 0410 695 659
Caitlin Evans, Seniors Rights Victoria, 0423 707 549
Jackie Hanafie, Media Officer, 0412 652 439

Media Release: Community Lawyers welcome ALP funding commitment but more to do

The National Association of Community Legal Centres (NACLC) today welcomed the Australian Labor Party’s reiteration of its commitment to funding and support for community legal centres.

Shadow Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus QC MP today announced further details of the ALP’s policy on funding for community legal centres. Last year the ALP announced that they would provide CLCs with $42.9 over 3 years to assist CLCs undertaking family violence-related work. Today and over the coming weeks, the ALP will be announcing allocation of that funding to specific CLCs across Australia.

‘Community legal centres across Australia are being forced to turn away hundreds of thousands of people each year. This funding commitment from the ALP is welcome, and will make a real difference to the ability of centres across Australia to help people experiencing family violence’ said Amanda Alford, Director Policy and Advocacy at NACLC.

‘We also welcome the ALP’s acknowledgement that people experiencing family violence face a range of legal problems and need a range of legal assistance including for example in relation to credit and debt, housing and employment, which is reflected in the fact that all Commonwealth funded CLCs will receive some of the $42.9 million funding’ said Ms Alford.

‘While we welcome the additional funding, we are disappointed that the ALP has chosen to allocate funding amounts to individual centres without undertaking a transparent and evidence-based process for determining legal need and funding to meet that need’ added Ms Alford.

‘To date over 3 years the Coalition has provided or pledged $15 million and some part of $30 million for CLCs to undertake family violence-related work, but the overall amount is unlikely to match the ALP commitment. We think the ALP’s commitment sets a minimum funding benchmark in this area and call on the Coalition to match or exceed it’ she said.

‘Importantly however, neither the ALP or Coalition funding commitments are sufficient to address the broader funding cuts facing the sector, 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 Alford.

‘The ALP has also highlighted its commitment to consultation with the sector around further funding and to ensuring that funding can be used for frontline services as well as the vital policy, advocacy and law reform work that CLCs undertake, which is currently restricted’ concluded Ms Alford.

NACLC continues to call on all parties to commit to:

  1. Reversing the $12.1 million funding cut to Community Legal Centres nationally in 2017-2018, the $11.6 million cut in 2018-2019 and the $11.13 million cut in 2019-2020 (amounting to a $34.83 million cut over the period 2017-18 to 2019-2020) under the National Partnership Agreement on Legal Assistance Services. 
  2. Implementing the Productivity Commission’s recommendation from its Access to Justice Arrangements Inquiry and provide 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%). 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 and Territories)
  3. Committing to implementing an appropriate process for determining adequate and sustainable longer-term funding contributions to the legal assistance sector by both Federal and State and Territory Governments, in consultation with the sector.

For further information or to arrange an interview contact:

Amanda Alford, Director Policy and Advocacy, 0421 028 645
Jackie Hanafie, Media Adviser, 0412 652 439

For comment on the specific announcements and particular funding challenges facing community legal centres in specific jurisdictions please contact:

  • NSW: Polly Porteous, Community Legal Centres NSW, 0415 156 020 (Note, funding was announced for a number of CLCs in NSW today)
  • Queensland: James Farrell, Community Legal Centres Queensland, 0411 206 835
  • Victoria: Katie Fraser, Federation of Community Legal Centres, 03 9652 1505
  • South Australia: Catherine McMorrine, SA Council of CLCs, 08 8384 5222
  • WA: Helen Creed, Community Legal Centres Association (WA), 08 9221 9322
  • Tasmania: Jane Hutchison, Community Legal Centres Tasmania, 03 6223 2500
  • NT: Caitlin Perry, Northern Territory Association of Community Legal Centres, 08 8982 1111
  • ACT: Genevieve Bolton, ACT Association of Community Legal Centres, 02 6218 7900

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 Release: Community Lawyers Welcome Funding Reprieve from Tasmanian Government

The National Association of Community Legal Centres (NACLC) and Community Legal Centres Tasmania (CLC Tas) today welcomed the announcement by the Tasmanian Government as part of last night’s Budget to provide emergency top up funding to three community legal centres in Tasmania.

The State Government announced an additional $496,000 to legal assistance services, including community legal centres and the Legal Aid Commission, in Tasmania over 2016-2017.

‘We are pleased that the Tasmanian Attorney-General Vanessa Goodwin has recognised the important work that community legal centres do for some of Tasmania’s most socially and financially disadvantaged people’ said Jane Hutchison, Chair of CLC Tas.

‘We welcome of the additional funding, some of which will be provided to three of the community legal centres funded by the Commonwealth Government under the National Partnership Agreement for Legal Assistance (NPA). The announcement means that CLCs in Tasmania funded under the NPA will be insulated from funding cuts for another year’.

‘The funding will help to secure Tasmania’s community legal centres and allow services to continue to be delivered to vulnerable Tasmanians. This is a particularly welcome outcome for centres facing imminent staff cuts and reduction in programs’ she added.

However, CLCs are still facing a funding cliff from 1 July 2017, with a 30% cut to Commonwealth funding nationally locked into the NPA.

‘We welcome the funding commitment from the Tasmanian Government that will protect CLCs over the coming financial year. It shows an important commitment to the sector and to the people of Tasmania’ said Daniel Stubbs, NACLC National Spokesperson.

‘However, we are extremely concerned that CLCs in Tasmania still face a looming funding cliff from 1 July 2017 unless the Commonwealth Government reverses the funding cuts. That will mean fewer Tasmanians will get the legal help they need. The Tasmanian Government has taken an important step to protect CLCs and it is time the Commonwealth Government did the same’ added Mr Stubbs.

‘In addition, unfortunately the State Government’s announcement did not restore funding to the Environmental Defenders Office (EDO). The Commonwealth Government cut all funding from EDOs and without an immediate injection of funding, we may see the loss of these vital services’ concluded Mr Stubbs.

NACLC and CLC Tas call on the Federal 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. Immediately inject $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. Commit to implementing an appropriate process for determining adequate and sustainable longer-term funding contributions for legal assistance in consultation with the sector.

For further information or to arrange an interview contact:

Jane Hutchison, CLTAS, 0417 596 919
Dan Stubbs, NACLC National Spokesperson, 0437 253 543
Amanda Alford, NACLC Director Policy and Advocacy, 0421 028 645
Jackie Hanafie, Media Adviser, 0412 652 439