The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse held its first hearing earlier this month. At the beginning of April the Australian government also announced funding for the establishment of the Royal Commission Legal Advisory Service.
The Service will be a free and independent of the Commission and auspiced by the National Association of Community Legal Centres (NACLC), the peak body for Australian community legal centres.
Michael Smith, NACLC National Convenor, welcomed the funding of this new service and noted that the service will meet the legal needs of a highly traumatised group of people within the Australian community.
Mr Smith also noted that NACLC did not seek funding from government to run this service although it made representations to government prior to the Commission’s terms of reference being announced to ensure that victims of child abuse and their families would be empowered to tell their stories.
Although the service will initially be based in Sydney, it is expected that it will travel the country in parallel with the Commission’s work in order to address the needs of Australians regardless of location.
The service will provide legal advice and assistance, information and referral for people wanting to engage with the Commission. It will also help people to prepare statements or submissions to the Royal Commission and help them to explore other legal options, regardless of whether or not they engage with the Commission. It will ensure that people understand the legal issues that may arise as a result of engaging with the Royal Commission, including appearances at informal hearings, so they can make informed choices before proceeding.
The service will also provide a secondary consultation service for Community Legal Centres that may wish to support clients in relation to the Royal Commission.
Although it will not provide legal representation it will help victims of child abuse to find suitable lawyers for representation and funding for representation. The service’s specialist lawyers and other staff will have expertise in working with survivors of sexual abuse and people who have experienced trauma. They will also provide culturally safe services to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders.
Loddon Campaspe CLC looks forward to working with the Legal Advisory Service to support victims of child sexual abuse living in our region.