By Gianna Huesch
In a surprise move, the Federal Government has announced it has listened to widespread outrage regarding the looming funding cuts to the legal assistance sector and will now commit to investing $55.7m in legal funding over three years.
Vulnerable Australians had been expected to be severely impacted by the Government’s intention not to continue to fund many community legal services. The legal assistance sector had been facing a 30% funding cut from July, which had seen many community legal centres expected to have no option but to close. The Government was warned that the funding cuts and diminished access to legal services would see a disastrous flow-on effect on police, hospitals and courts.
In what is being described as a ‘humiliating backdown’, the Government found itself forced to respond to increasing pressure from the legal sector, each of the states’ attorney-generals, and more recently the Senate. As a result, the funding will be restored in the Federal Budget in May, with a commitment to there being no funding loss for five years.
Domestic and family violence services as well as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander legal services will be greatly relieved to hear of the announcement, as it ends years of uncertainty for many centres. Mr Brandis said he expected the sector to be “delighted”:
“[They] have been waiting and hoping that the Government would see their point of view and we have done that and delivered for them.”
In anticipation of the Federal funding shortfall this year, the NSW Government had also stepped in this year to deliver an extra $6m to community legal services in NSW. Mr Brandis said he hoped the other states and territories would also commit to increasing their funding, so that adequate funding of the sector was a joint effort between State and Federal Governments.
At Alliance, we welcome this news and are pleased the Government is finally taking steps to address this issue which threatened to impact the most vulnerable of Australians.
Do you need assistance with a family law matter? Please contact Canberra family lawyer Cristina Huesch or one of our other experienced solicitors here at Alliance Family Law on (02) 6223 2400 to arrange a free first conference.