Media Release: Strong legal profession support for Community Legal Centres in face of funding cliff

The National Association of Community Legal Centres (NACLC) has welcomed the open letter from the heads of all state and territory law societies published today calling for the reversal of the funding cliff facing Community Legal Centres (CLCs) and funding for the legal assistance sector.

The open letter was signed by all state and territory law societies, representing over 60,000 solicitors across Australia, and published in The Australian today. The letter echoes the concern expressed by leaders of pro bono practices at major Australian law firms about the funding of Community Legal Centres in another open letter published in The Australian in June this year.

“We welcome the support shown by the private legal profession across Australia for the vital work that Community Legal Centres and the legal assistance sector do, and the reversal of the 30% funding cliff facing CLCs from 1 July next year” said Dan Stubbs, NACLC National Spokesperson.

“Community Legal Centres and the other legal assistance providers help hundreds of thousands of people across Australia every year. The underfunding of these services and the funding cliff will have a significant impact on the ability of people to get the legal help they need” he added.

“Many CLCs work closely with law firms and individual lawyers to provide services to vulnerable and disadvantaged clients. It is heartening to see the Law Council of Australia, Australian Bar Association, all state and territory law societies and pro bono firms all come out in support of CLCs and the sector recently” he said.

“When there is this level of concern about the funding cliff across the profession, it sends a strong message that the funding crisis facing CLCs will have a huge impact on our clients, but also on the broader legal profession and justice system, given our important preventative and early intervention work” he said.

“We look forward to continuing to work with the Attorney-General and the legal assistance sector, with the support of the profession, to address the funding cliff and discuss the ongoing work and sustainability of the legal assistance sector” concluded Mr Stubbs.

For more information or to arrange an interview, please contact:
Daniel Stubbs, NACLC National Spokesperson, 0437 253 543
Amanda Alford, NACLC Director Policy and Advocacy, 0421 028 645

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 Release: Community Lawyers Welcome Greens Plan to Address Family Violence

The National Association of Community Legal Centres (NACLC) today welcomed the announcement by the Greens of their plan to address family violence, including through funding for legal assistance services.

The policy ‘Confronting Our Domestic Violence Crisis: Enough is Enough- Funding Our Front Line Services’ was released by Greens spokesperson Senator Larissa Waters. It includes a $5 billion plan over ten years to increase investment in front line services to address and respond to family violence.

“We welcome the Greens acknowledgement of the family violence crisis in Australia and the need for significant investment to address that crisis” said Daniel Stubbs, NACLC National Spokesperson.

“We also welcome the Greens acknowledgement of the need to reverse the funding cuts to community legal centres (CLCs), implement the Productivity Commission’s recommendations and invest long-term in the legal assistance sector” said Mr Stubbs.

“We are disappointed that there was no specific funding for CLCs included in the package announced today, however the Greens have indicated that they will make further specific funding commitments for CLCs, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services and Legal Aid Commissions in the coming weeks and we look forward to hearing more” added Mr Stubbs.

“An important part of the package is the specific funding for Family Violence Prevention Legal Services (FVPLS) of $144 million additional funds over 4 years. The FVPLS provide vital services to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women experiencing family violence and it is vital that these community controlled services receive the funding they need” added Mr Stubbs.

“We are also pleased to see that the package includes $60 million to implement the recommendations made as part of the Safety First in Family Law Campaign being run by one of NACLC’s National Networks, Women’s Legal Services Australia. The Campaign outlines five steps to creating a family law system that keeps women and children safe and is a vital part of any national response to family violence, so reform consistent with these steps as well as associated funding is very welcome” concluded Mr Stubbs.

For further information or to arrange an interview contact:

Dan Stubbs, National Spokesperson, 0437 253 543
Amanda Alford, Director Policy and Advocacy, 0421 028 645
Jackie Hanafie, Media Adviser, 0412 652 439

To discuss the Women’s Legal Services Australia Safety First in Family Law Campaign, contact:
Emma Smallwood, Women’s Legal Services Australia, 03 8622 0600

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

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

CLCs urge candidates to reveal their plans to address legal crisis

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:

WA

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.”

VIC

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.

QLD

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.

NSW

“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:

WA

SCALES

VIC

Peninsula CLC

Gippsland CLS

Barwon CLS

QLD

Caxton Legal Centre

Mackay Regional CLC

NSW

Marrickville CLC

 

 

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