Today the federal Attorney-General, Senator George Brandis, announced the government’s intention to restore $55.7 million to the community legal sector over three years. This is welcome news. Across our two centres (Loddon Campaspe and Goulburn Valley Community Legal Centres) the planned cuts would have forced us to turn away more than 250 clients per year. The majority of these clients would be people fleeing family violence or struggling with Family Law matters.
Hayley Mansfield, EO of ARC Justice notes: ‘This is great news for the communities we work with and has resulted from the sustained groundswell of opposition to cuts that would have impacted unfairly on some of our nation’s most vulnerable citizens. George Brandis said community legal centres “have been waiting and hoping that the Government would see their point of view and we have done that and delivered for them.” It is true that we have been waiting and hoping. But we have not been as passive as this comment suggests. Alongside more than 200 other community legal centres across Australia we have lobbied hard for several months. And we’ve been heartened by support for this campaign from many quarters.
We would like to take this opportunity to thank some of those supporters, including the federal Opposition (in particular the Member for Bendigo, Lisa Chesters, and the Shadow Attorney-General, Mark Dreyfus), Senate crossbenchers, Law School Deans from across Australia, the Law Society of Australia, pro bono law firms, the Uniting Church, our volunteer lawyers and paralegals, and the many individuals who signed the online petition at Fair Agenda and/or sent letters to the Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, via Rosie Batty and the Luke Batty Foundation.’
Hayley Mansfield: ‘We are yet to see exactly what today’s announcement will mean for our two community legal centre programs, in particular Goulburn Valley CLC which is already the lowest funded regional Community Legal Centre in Victoria. Nonetheless, we trust it marks the end of a long period of uncertainty. We hope to no longer be distracted from our core work providing free legal advice and support to more than 2000 vulnerable and disadvantaged people across much of Central Victoria.’
Moving forward we urge the government to take this opportunity to commit to developing an appropriate process for determining adequate and sustainable longer-term funding to the legal assistance sector by federal, state and territory governments.
For media comment:
Mansfield, Executive Officer, ARC Justice 0431 438 217
Clare Sauro, Managing Lawyer, Loddon Campaspe Community Legal Centre 0403 904 705
Kaz Gurney, Managing Lawyer, Goulburn Valley Community Legal Centre 0427 318 825