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

Media Alert: Community law spokesperson available for comment ahead of tonight’s regional leaders’ debate

Community Law Australia Spokesperson Dan Stubbs is available for comment today to discuss concerns around access to justice in regional and remote areas ahead of tonight’s Regional Leaders’ Debate in Goulburn.

Key points:

  • Dan Stubbs available for comment on 0437 253 543
  • Mr Stubbs can provide commentary on the overall funding cuts to community legal centres, the impact of cuts on regional and rural communities, role of legal assistance for these areas and other related issues
  • People living in regional areas have higher odds of experiencing multiple legal problems when they experience a legal problem when compared to people living in major cities, which means access to legal help is vital
  • Community legal centres (CLCs) are a central part of regional and remote communities as they are often the only point of call for legal assistance in these areas
  • CLCs are particularly important as people in these areas already experience difficulty accessing vital services
  • CLCs assist people in regional and remote areas with a range of issues, including credit and debt, housing, employment, family violence and family law and social security issues. They also help farmers in particular in dealing with banks and consumer issues, planning law and environmental issues
  • CLCs use a variety of methods to help clients, including outreach across Australia and technology such as Skype which means clients can still get help when they need it, even if they are unable to travel to a CLC office
  • CLCs are facing significant funding cuts and the impact of these cuts will mean fewer people in regional areas will be able to access the vital legal help they

For further information or to arrange an interview contact:
Dan Stubbs, Spokesperson, 0437 253 543
Amanda Alford, Director Policy and Advocacy, 0421 028 645
Jackie Hanafie, Media Adviser, 0412 652 439

 

Media Release: Broad calls for legal assistance funding focus on law week

As National Law Week draws to a close, the National Association of Community Legal Centres (NACLC) has called on the Federal Government to listen to the chorus of voices that have expressed support for legal assistance services and concern about looming funding cuts this week.

‘This week we have seen thousands of people come out in support of legal assistance services at events and rallies across Australia’ said Daniel Stubbs, NACLC National Spokesperson.

‘We have heard individual clients, judges, community organisations and lawyers across Australia talking about the importance of legal assistance services, the impact of cuts, and the downstream costs to individuals, the community and governments of failing to invest in legal assistance’.

‘We have seen national and local media including in a number of rural and regional areas covering the impact of funding cuts in communities’.

‘Despite all this, Community Legal Centres continue to face a 30% cut nationally from 1 July next year, amounting to a $34.83 million cut over the forward estimates. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services are also facing cuts, and the underfunding of Family Violence Prevention Legal Services and Legal Aid Commissions continues’.

‘It is disappointing that neither major party has committed to fully reversing the funding cuts facing the sector, investing the funding the Productivity Commission recommended was necessary and urgent, or to adequate and sustainable long-term funding’.

Mr Stubbs welcomed the support of organisations like the Law Council of Australia which has launched a ‘Legal Aid Matters’ campaign. ‘It has been heartening to see so many individuals and organisations come out in support of the sector this week, as well as more broadly. It shows just how important access to free legal help is and the strong view that the Government isn’t doing enough to support the sector’.

This Law Week, 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

Media Release: Additional Family Violence funding welcome but inadequate

The National Association of Community Legal Centres (NACLC) welcomes the announcement of an extra $30 million of Commonwealth funding over 3 years for legal assistance services to assist people experiencing family violence.

The Attorney-General George Brandis and Minister for Women Michaelia Cash made the announcement in Brisbane today. The $30 million is part of the extra $100 million allocated in last week’s Federal Budget to implement the Third Action Plan under the National Plan to Reduce Violence Against Women and Their Children.

‘We welcome any additional funding for legal assistance services, including Community Legal Centres (CLCs), Family Violence Prevention Legal Services (FVPLS), Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services (ATSILS) and Legal Aid Commissions (LACs), directed at addressing family violence and this is a positive step,’ NACLC National Spokesperson Daniel Stubbs said.

‘This additional funding adds to the $15 million provided to CLCs and LACs under the Women’s Safety Package and means that we will be able to continue to provide some of the crucial legal help women experiencing family violence need. We also welcome the Government’s commitment to consulting the sector about the best way to allocate the additional funding’.

‘However, we have a number of serious concerns about the funding’.

‘It is difficult to understand why the Government would provide CLCs with some share of $10 million per year as part of this funding, but during the same period cut CLCs by 30% nationally. It is tantamount to paying for a new roof on a house but removing the foundations at the same time’.

‘$10 million per year over three years is a totally inadequate amount for legal assistance services in the face of rising demand and funding cuts. CLCs alone are facing funding cuts of $34.83 million over three years from 1 July next year’.

‘The broader package of $100 million is also insufficient to address family and domestic violence more broadly. We know countless frontline services are facing funding cuts and uncertainty, and the Government’s stated commitment to addressing family violence isn’t backed up by adequate funding’.

‘It is also important to recognise that women experiencing family violence face a range of legal problems. So often CLCs help women with tenancy, debt, social security and employment law issues. It is vital that this is recognised in allocating the funding, and further highlights the importance of reversing the broader funding cuts to the sector’.

‘While we welcome the Government’s statement that the funding will encompass targeted assistance for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and their children, some proportion of $10 million is just not enough. We know Aboriginal women are 34 times more likely to be hospitalised and the crucial role that services like the FVPLS provide, and so additional and specific investment in these services is crucial’.

‘Overall, we look forward to working with the Government in the short-term to implement an appropriate allocation model for this one-off $30 million funding, but also more broadly to see a reversal of the looming funding cuts facing CLCs and adequate and sustainable long-term funding for the entire legal assistance sector,’ concluded Mr Stubbs.

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

Note to Editors

NACLC continues to call on the Federal Government to:

  1. Reverse 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. Implement 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. Commit 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.