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

Launch of new campaign: Community Law Australia—Fund Equal Justice

Leading community lawyers from across Australia will meet in Canberra tomorrow to brief Members of Parliament and Senators about the work of Community Legal Centres (CLCs) and call for urgent action to help people missing out on legal help.

The new national campaign, Community Law Australia—Fund Equal Justice, is being led by the National Association of Community Legal Centres (NACLC). The campaign is being launched against the backdrop of rising demand for legal help, but funding cuts to crucial Community Legal Centre services.

“Community Legal Centres provide essential legal help to those in need. While family violence and family law are the top specialist areas for CLCs, we provide a range of legal help to people across a range of legal areas, including debt, employment, housing, social security, and child protection” said Rosslyn Monro, Campaign Spokesperson and NACLC Chairperson ahead of the launch.

“New figures released today from the NACLC 2015 Census reveal that CLCs are turning away more than 160,000 people each year. However, there is a looming 30% cut to national Community Legal Centre funding next year under the new National Partnership Agreement for Legal Assistance Services” said Ms Monro.

“In the context of a relatively small overall budget for CLCs, these funding cuts of between $11m and $12m every year between 2017 and 2020 will have a significant impact on CLC service delivery, and therefore on the ability of people seeking legal help to receive the help they need. For example, a 30% cut to Commonwealth funding nationally is likely to lead to 36,435 fewer clients assisted and 45, 644 fewer advices provided” added Ms Monro.

NACLC calls on the Federal Government to:

  • reverse the national funding cuts to CLCs under the National Partnership Agreement (amounting to $34.83m between 1 July 2017 and 30 June 2020)
  • immediately inject $120m per year into the legal assistance sector, consistent with the recommendation made by the Productivity Commission, including at a minimum $14.4m per year to CLCs and appropriate amounts for Family Violence Prevention Legal Services, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services and Legal Aid Commissions, and
  • commit to developing a process for determining sustainable long-term funding contributions to the legal assistance sector

For further information or to arrange an interview contact:
Rosslyn Monro NACLC Chairperson, 0407 633 084
Amanda Alford, NACLC Director Policy and Advocacy, 0421 028 645

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