Gascoyne residents missing out on legal help

Community Law Australia today highlighted the high numbers of regional West Australians missing out on legal help at the WA Community Legal Centres Conference.

Community Law Australia Spokesperson Hugh de Kretser, visiting WA for the conference, said that West Australians were struggling to get much needed legal help on basic issues like relationship breakdown, job loss, family violence, debt and tenancy.

“Community legal centres provide over 70,000 services to West Australians each year. Yet CLCs across the state report overwhelming levels of demand for help. For example the WA Employment Law Centre assists around 4,500 callers with employment law issues each year but callers face long waiting times and having to call multiple times to get through – creating risks that many will simply give up on getting the help they need.

“Worse, regional areas like the Gascoyne have little or no access to CLC services at all, creating postcode justice where the level of access to justice varies depending on where you live.

“A recent ACOSS community survey confirmed the pressure on CLCs and the high turnaway rates. The WA component of the Legal Australia Wide Survey, released yesterday, confirmed the huge numbers of legal problems affecting an estimated 899,000 West Australians over 15 each year.

“CLCs already provide a strong return on investment, with findings earlier this year that CLCs have a cost benefit ratio of 1:18. State and Federal investment in CLCs builds stronger and healthier communities, generating savings for individuals, courts and broader society.

“Gasscoyne residents deserve better access to legal help in their community,” said Mr de Kretser. “Just like we have universal safety nets for education and health, we need a proper safety net for legal help. The current safety net has gaping holes.

Community Law Australia is calling on the Federal Government to double its investment in CLCs, legal aid commissions and Indigenous legal services, including funding for permanent and adequate community legal services for Carnarvon and the Gascoyne.

Download the media release (PDF)