On the 3rd of December the Productivity Commission released its long-awaited report into access to justice arrangements in Australia.
The Commission recognised the role of Australian legal assistance providers (including Community Legal Centres) and deplored the high levels of unmet legal need faced by disadvantaged and vulnerable Australians. The Commission recommended an immediate injection of $200 million to adequately meet these needs.
The Commission’s call for increased funding flies in the face of imminent cuts to Goulburn Valley CLC, announced earlier in this year by the Commonwealth Government.
The Goulburn Valley CLC received its first real injection of Commonwealth funds in 2012/13, when then Attorney-General, Mark Dreyfus, promised $100,000 per year for three years. That commitment was later revoked by the current Attorney-General, George Brandis, who pulled the last two years funding. The future for the Goulburn Valley CLC beyond 30 June 2015 could be dire.
Despite the diversity of Goulburn Valley clients and their complex needs, the region’s community legal services are already woefully under-funded. Goulburn Valley CLC receives less than half the funding usually allocated to a rural, regional or remote Victorian CLC. It also receives less than one third of the funding allocated to Victoria’s highest-funded RRR community legal centre.
The Commission’s report referred to the Family Violence Prevention Legal Service Forum that asserted that “other high need rural and remote areas were not among the 31 locations serviced by FVPLS. These included ‘the Torres Strait, Shepparton in Victoria, Halls Creek in [Western Australia] and the Anangu Pitjantjatjara communities in South Australia’. Services like Goulburn Valley CLC provide essential support to agencies like FVPLS that deliver culturally safe and appropriate services to members of the Indigenous community.
Loddon Campaspe and Goulburn Valley Community Legal Centres call on the Commonwealth government to commit the additional $200 million required to adequately fund legal assistance services in Australia and to reverse its earlier funding cut to Goulburn Valley Community Legal Centre.
Please note: In accordance with Commonwealth Government restrictions on the use of Commonwealth funds for advocacy-related purposes, this blog post was not prepared using Commonwealth funds.
Image: Vaguely Artistic via Creative Commons