Media Release: Community lawyers at frontline of family violence call for Government support

Today, International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, is an opportunity to acknowledge the vital work that Community Legal Centres do to help women and children experiencing family violence.

“Community Legal Centres across Australia provide free legal help to hundreds of thousands of women and girls experiencing family violence” said Dan Stubbs, National Spokesperson of the National Association of Community Legal Centres (NACLC).

“We help with immediate issues such as safety planning and protection orders as well as other issues related to the violence such as family law, credit and debt, problems with Centrelink, tenancy disputes, and employment issues” he said.

“Through our Health Justice Partnerships we provide free legal help to women who attend medical appointments. So often this is the only chance for a woman experiencing family violence to leave the house alone, and so getting them immediate assistance in that window is crucial” he added.

Women’s Legal Services are specialist Community Legal Centres that provide assistance to women experiencing legal problems arising from family violence and relationship breakdown.

“On days like today it is important to reflect the key role Women’s Legal Services play in helping victim survivors of family violence” said Agata Wierzbowski, National Law Reform Coordinator for Women’s Legal Services Australia (WLSA).

“Every day we help women access safety, help with immediate and long-term legal issues arising out of family violence, and in some cases save women’s lives” added Ms Wierzbowski.

“However, we can’t begin to address family violence without addressing the problems in our family law system. That’s why WLSA, together with Rosie Batty, have developed a 5-Step Plan to Safety First in Family Law” she said.

“One part of that Plan is to ensure adequate funding for family violence services, including Community Legal Centres” Ms Wierzbowski added.

“It is timely that this year’s theme for today is ‘Orange the world: raise money to end violence against women and girls’ given that CLCs across Australia will face a 30% funding cliff from 1 July next year” said Mr Stubbs.

“We are set to lose almost $35 million over the next few years nationally. This will mean that women and children experiencing family violence won’t get the legal help they need”.

“Starting today, the next 16 Days of Activism against Gender Violence are a pertinent reminder to the Federal Government of the urgency of this issue and the importance of working with the sector to reverse the funding cliff and ensure women across Australia get this vital legal help” concluded Mr Stubbs.

To arrange an interview or for more information contact:                

Daniel Stubbs, NACLC National Spokesperson, 0437 253 543
Agata Wierzbowski, WLSA National Law Reform Coordinator, 0431 975 770
Amanda Alford, NACLC Director Policy and Advocacy, 0421 028 645

For more information about the Orange the World Campaign see: UNiTE to End Violence

Media Release: NACLC acknowledges limited additional family violence funding for Community Legal Centres

The National Association of Community Legal Centres (NACLC) today acknowledged the announcement by the Commonwealth Government of a $5 million one-year extension of the pilot funding provided to Community Legal Centres (CLCs) and Legal Aid Commissions under the Women’s Safety Package for specialist family violence units and Health Justice Partnerships.

The announcement at the COAG National Family Violence Summit came as the Government unveiled the allocation of an additional $30 million over three years for legal assistance services under the Third Action Plan under the National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children. The announcement also included $18 million additional funding for Legal Aid Commissions as well as additional funding for Family Relationship Centres.

“Any additional funding for CLCs providing vital services to people experiencing family violence is welcome. We welcome the Government’s acknowledgement of the work of CLCs in providing vital services for people experiencing family violence” said Dan Stubbs, NACLC National Spokesperson.

“However, it is important to recognise that the announcement is very limited. It is for $5 million to be shared by only 11 of over 185 CLCs across Australia for one year. It does not address the broader funding cliff facing CLCs from 1 July next year” he said.

“We are extremely concerned about the impact the funding cliff, a 30% reduction in Commonwealth funding for CLCs nationally, will have on people experiencing family violence. Given the broader reduction will take effect during the same period as these pilots, and will force centres to close or reduce services, there is a real risk that the cut will negate the positive impact of this additional funding” he added.

“We are also disappointed that no funding was allocated to Family Violence Prevention Legal Services and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services as a vital part of the legal assistance sector. However, we are hopeful of an announcement of additional funding for those services as part of the  additional $25 million identified for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations and initiatives under the Third Action Plan” he said.

“Overall, while we had hoped for more funding for CLCs, we are committed to working with the Government to ensure people experiencing family violence get the legal help they need, as well as working to reverse the looming funding cliff facing CLCs and the legal assistance sector” concluded Mr Stubbs.

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

Announcement Details

  • Over $18 million to Legal Aid Commissions for integrated duty lawyer and social support services in family law courts
  • $5 million to twelve CLCs and Legal Aid Commissions that received funding under the Women’s Safety Package to establish specialist domestic violence units and Health Justice Partnerships to extend those pilots for an additional year
  • $6.2 million for Family Relationship Centres to pilot family dispute resolution for vulnerable families, particularly Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and culturally and linguistically diverse families
  • $300,000 for data analysis across the legal assistance sector to enhance understanding of domestic, family and sexual violence.

Innovative community legal service in women’s hospital helps to stop family violence

Community Law Australia today commended the work being done to address family violence by North Melbourne Legal Service and the Royal Women’s Hospital (the Women’s) through their innovative legal assistance outreach project Acting on the Warning Signs.

The project, funded by the Legal Services Board major grants program as well as in-kind support from Herbert Smith Freehills, aims to build the capacity and willingness of health professionals to identify family violence and provide basic information to patients who require it.

Since December 2012, training has been provided to over 125 staff including 27 doctors to empower them to identify signs of family violence and offer referral and assistance. Between 1 August 2012 and 1 November 2013 legal advice was given to 73 patients on site at the Women’s by lawyers from North Melbourne Legal Service.

Dr Fleur Llewelyn, Manager of Clinical Education at the Royal Women’s Hospital said she was proud of the achievements made by the pilot program thus far.

“By having a lawyer available on-site, women are able to access information about their rights and entitlements within the safety of the hospital,” she said.

“Women who are in situations where they may be experiencing chronic abuse and violence are able to attend the hospital for an antenatal appointment and see a lawyer who can provide them with advice about their rights and entitlements, including information about intervention orders and family law.

“This is a powerful opportunity to empower women to take steps to escape a violent situation.”

Community Law Australia spokesperson Carolyn Bond said the success of the program indicated that there may be scope for similar partnerships between community legal centres and health providers.

“Legal problems often occur in conjunction with social, economic or health problems, so it makes sense for legal and non-legal services to work together – particularly in helping deal with complex issues like family violence.

“This is just one example of CLCs working well with other service providers to help solve connected legal, social, health and financial problems. This work is taking quality legal assistance one step further by delivering our legal services in partnerships and in locations which work best for the people who need our help.

“A recent survey of Victorian CLCs found that the vast majority of CLCs delivered legal services alongside other community services. Whether it is at a rural community health service, in conjunction with financial counselling services or at drug and alcohol clinic, this innovative CLC work is about early intervention and prevention and helping people holistically. Access to justice research strongly suggests this is the way to go,” Ms Bond said.

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Funding provides vital community lawyer support for family violence and first new community legal centre in Melbourne’s fringe since 2005

Community Law Australia today welcomed increased funding to ensure that the Eastern community legal centre (ECLC) could service more people in need of legal help. Continue reading