Failure to fund CLCs will hamstring justice
15th May 2018
The Commonwealth’s failure to increase funding to resources-strapped Community Legal Centres (CLCs) means that people with legitimate personal injury or compensation claims are more likely than ever to simply give up on seeking justice through the legal system, the Australian Lawyers Alliance (ALA) said today.
In the Federal Budget announced by the Turnbull government last week, there was no commitment for additional funding for the legal aid sector, which is at its lowest level in 20 years.
ALA National President Laura Neil said this failure would unfairly impact access to justice for some of Australia’s most disadvantaged people.
While Mrs Neil welcomed the government’s funding for the Knowmore project to provide legal support services for survivors of institutional child sexual abuse who are engaging with the Commonwealth Redress Scheme, she was highly critical of the failure to provide additional funding to existing CLC services.
“Community Legal Centres provide critical frontline legal services for people who would otherwise struggle to afford justice”, Mrs Neil said.
“The failure of the Turnbull Government to provide additional funding for frontline CLC services means that these people will face continuing difficulties in getting access to timely, essential legal advice to help resolve their claims.”
“CLCs offer initial advice and referrals for people with legitimate personal injury and accident compensation claims to expert private solicitors in these areas,” Mrs Neil said.
“For many of these people, delays in getting into a CLC to receive this information often means they just give up seeking justice altogether.”
Mrs Neil said CLCs offer advice on everything from tenancy rights to discrimination, domestic violence, employment, environmental issues, youth, family, civil and criminal law, small credit and debt matters, neighbour disputes, immigration advice, children’s court assistance, mediation, outreach legal services and Indigenous justice.
“By neglecting to properly fund CLCs to meet demand, the government is essentially saying that it does not care that people are falling through the cracks,” Mrs Neil said.
"These centres provide a legal and emotional lifeline to the most needy members of our community and they must be encouraged to speak out about injustice, not have their mouths wired shut to protect the government’s reputation.”
Mrs Neil noted that the Victorian government recently committed the injection of an additional $257 million into the state’s justice system to help to fund extra judicial officers and will also improve support to victims of crime.
“It is especially relevant today, National Pro-Bono day, to acknowledge how important it is for anyone using the court system to obtain speedy access to justice, whether for civil or criminal proceedings,” Mrs Neil said.