Community Law Australia today welcomed the state Attorney-General Jarrod Bleijie’s announcement of $500,000 in grants to community legal centres (CLCs) across Queensland, however warned that it was not enough to tackle the widening problem of access to justice.
Community Law Australia spokesperson Hugh de Kretser said that the grants would provide a welcome boost for CLCs providing front line services to clients, but in real terms, the funding was not new and a major boost in new funding was needed to establish a proper legal safety net in Queensland and across Australia.
“We need a major injection of new funding to enable CLCs to cope with increased demand. We need to create a proper legal safety net.
“It is estimated that half a million Australians miss out on legal help each year for mainly financial reasons – according to Australia Institute research.
“A lot of the CLCs that will receive grants are rolling out innovative and vital programs which can continue thanks to these grants.
“The fact is, community legal centres act in a preventative and early intervention role in a range of specialist fields, from domestic violence support to tenancy and debt services.
“In addition to the benefits for individuals, CLCs reduce burdens on courts and minimise impacts on the broader justice system through early dispute resolution and by reducing rates of self-representation, which is why the need for new and dedicated funding is so important.
“Community legal centres are a vital part of Australia’s justice system and yet they are often given the short straw in terms of funding. The provision of grants to key Queensland CLCs is fantastic, but greater funding security is needed.
“We need state and federal governments to work together to establish a proper legal safety net to improve access to our legal system and reduce barriers for ordinary people who are currently missing out.
“Community legal centres provide free legal advice for primarily civil and family law matters. These are every day Australians who might need an intervention order, are in danger of being evicted, or require assistance to understand the courts and complex legal terms.
“A lot of our clients aren’t aware of their legal options and wait until they reach crisis point before seeking help. We need to properly resource legal assistance services to make sure people aren’t missing out when they most need help,” said Mr de Kretser.