Redfern Appeal Highlights Legal Assistance Crisis

The Abbott Government's failure to properly fund legal assistance services for vulnerable Australians has been underlined by a public appeal for donations by one of Australia's oldest community legal centres. 

THE HON MARK DREYFUS QC MP

SHADOW ATTORNEY-GENERAL

SHADOW MINISTER FOR THE ARTS

MEMBER FOR ISAACS

 

 

REDFERN APPEAL HIGHLIGHTS LEGAL ASSISTANCE CRISIS

The Abbott Government's failure to properly fund legal assistance services for vulnerable Australians has been underlined by a public appeal for donations by one of Australia's oldest community legal centres. 

The Redfern Legal Centre has warned it may be forced to turn away up to 500 vulnerable and disadvantaged clients a year due to cuts of 50 percent in government funding.

The call for donations comes only a week after the Abbott Government's budget papers revealed $12 million a year will be slashed from community legal centres' budgets after 2016-17. But some centres are facing cuts even before then, as the Government has provided no certainty that their funding will be maintained.

The Budget completely ignored the recommendations of the Productivity Commission fund a further $200 million a year into legal assistance services.

State, Territory and Federal attorneys-general now have an opportunity this Friday when they meet to address this under-funding and discuss a new legal assistance agreement.

That the RLC has been forced to issue the plea for public donations is an indication of the crisis facing the sector.

In 2007, it received Human Rights Law Award from the Australian Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission for its work in establishing the Women’s Domestic Violence Court Assistance Scheme.

"It is vitally important that we provide more support to centres like Redfern and other legal assistance services which are critical to assisting vulnerable Australians," said Shadow Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus QC.

"With rising rates of indigenous incarceration and a pressing need for more frontline assistance for women and children in situations of domestic violence, begrudgingly maintaining parts of the funding status quo for two years before again imposing savage cuts is completely unacceptable." 

MONDAY, 18 MAY 2015