A reversal of “devastating cuts” to funding for community legal centres has been welcomed by federal Isaacs Labor MP Mark Dreyfus.
Planned federal government funding cuts that had been planned to take effect on 1 July but federal Liberal Attorney-General George Brandis announced last week the government will provide an extra $55.7 million over the next three years to the legal services sector as part of the 2017-18 budget.
About $39 million of that money will go to community legal centres and $16.7 million to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander legal services.
The National Association of Community Legal Centres also welcomed the decision to abandon plans to cut funding to legal centres by about 30 per cent.
Mr Dreyfus said any cuts to Peninsula Community Legal Centre funding would “hit the local community incredibly hard”.
“It would have resulted in the loss of free legal advice for some of Frankston and Kingston’s most vulnerable residents,” he said.
National Association of Community Legal Centres CEO Nassim Arrage said the announcement is “excellent news for all those people who rely on the help of CLCs every day”.
“This funding is a lifeline for a sector that was facing significant cuts,” Mr Arrage said. “The reversal will mean people across Australia will get access to the legal help they were going to be denied from 1 July if the funding cuts went ahead.”
Mr Brandis said the grant was the largest ever single commitment on an annualised basis by the federal government to the legal assistance sector.
He said it was not a one off, ad-hoc payment.
“These arrangements will give the sector the resources … and certainty they have been asking for.”
Mr Brandis said the government was adding $39 million to women’s and domestic and family violence services.
“Since we announced the women’s safety package in 2015, public awareness of family violence has escalated dramatically,” he said.
“The Women’s Legal Service has been at the forefront of that advocacy. But I also want to, of course, acknowledge and single out Rosie Batty for her leadership in public advocacy of the issue.
He said the $39 million over the next three years would go to family law and family violence services to provide “targeted, trauma-informed legal assistance to thousands of women who may otherwise not have received the help they need”.
“The government has always recognised the essential role of the legal assistance sector in providing access to justice for the most vulnerable Australians,” Mr Brandis said.