Boost for family legal help, but big funding shortfall remains

A modest one-off boost in Federal funding to provide legal help for separating families has been welcomed by the Community Law Australia campaign. However, a significant shortfall remains and a system-wide plan to properly fund legal assistance throughout Australia should be the aim of the forthcoming Federal Budget, the current national review of legal assistance services, and party platforms heading into the 2013 Federal election.

“Community legal centres (CLCs) remain significantly under-funded at Federal and State levels, so we welcome even modest, one-off increases such as that announced by Federal Attorney-General Nicola Roxon. Prioritising this spending on family law services to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander clients is highly appropriate and much needed,” said Community Law Australia Chair, Michael Smith, today.

“However, these grants must be considered as down-payments on the much bigger investment needed to make a real difference to ordinary Australians burdened with legal problems for which they are too often ineligible for financial assistance, and for which they cannot afford a private lawyer.

“A recent report on legal expenditure shows that, at $722m last financial year, the Federal Government spends more than twice as much on its own lawyers as it does on legal help for Australians struggling for the legal help and access to justice that should be available to everyone, not just those who can afford it,” Mr Smith said.

He said the early announcement of the Federal election date offered a rare opportunity to highlight the need for a comprehensive plan to place legal assistance on a sustainable footing. The priority must be to look at the abundant data on increasing legal need to establish a realistic picture of the funding really needed to ensure access to justice.

“Community Law Australia wants to see all political parties take a hard look at what’s happening with legal assistance funding in Australia, and offer detailed, costed approaches to improving legal help. The test isn’t which party is offering more, but which party is offering the investment necessary to do the job,” he said.

The review is set for completion by 30 June 2013, after the Federal Budget is announced, but Mr Smith said the evidence of under-funding is already clear and the Federal Budget should reflect a substantial funding boost in advance of the 14 September election.

For interview:
Michael Smith
0421 437 883
Chair
Community Law Australia
For media information:
Darren Lewin-Hill
0488 773 535

Download media release (PDF)

2 thoughts on “Boost for family legal help, but big funding shortfall remains

  1. Too many Australians are left to deal with injustice without the aid of the legal system. What are the options? Put one’s tail between one’s legs and slink away?

    What will it take for either political party to take our access to justice seriously? Reading how much the government spends on its own lawyers in comparison to what is made available to the general public highlights the complete lack of empathy of our leaders.

    Maybe we need to put our case to the parties in terms of increased productivity if workers are free to concentrate on their jobs instead of attempting to represent themselves in court. From her past statements, that might be the kind of thing that gets Julia Gillard’s attention.

  2. Without justice you have nothing to fight back with you have no rights at all because you cannot fight back. You are also an easy target. Justice is a term not something that is practised.

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