Legal centres’ plea to stop funding cuts

Hume Riverina WEB

COMMUNITY legal centres have rallied together to urge the government to reconsider funding cuts.

An open letter addressed to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull was published by the Federation of Community Legal Centres on its website on June 14, to which no response was received, according to the federations’ spokesperson.

“Despite the May Federal Budget, community legal centres nationally still face a 30 per cent cut from July 2017, with the Budget retaining more than $34 million in cuts amid a broader Federal funding shortfall of $100 million over the next four years,” part of the letter reads.

“As Attorney-General Brandis is aware, chronic underfunding by the Federal Government before the cuts commence already compels centres nationally to turn away at least 160,000 people each year.”

The Wangaratta Chronicle reported in March that around 200 people would be unable to receive legal advice in Wangaratta if the funding cuts come into effect in July next year.

That’s despite the Victorian Council of Social Services identifying in its Narrowing the Justice Gap report that there was a growing need for the services and a need for the Government to make up the funding shortfall.

Hume Riverina Community Legal Centre principal Sarah Rogers said victims of domestic and family violence and those on low incomes would be most affected by the lack of funding.

The centre offers a range of services in Wangaratta, of which almost half its clients are women often suffering from domestic abuse.

Ms Rogers said the service was imperative to providing access to justice in the Wangaratta region.

“We are continuing to work hard to lobby for these cuts to be reversed,” Ms Rogers said.

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