PIAC has joined with community legal centres throughout Australia in welcoming promises of additional funding from both major political parties in the lead up to the federal election but questioned whether they adequately address broader funding cuts imposed on the sector, or are sufficient to meet the rising need for affordable legal services.
Shadow Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus QC MP recently announced details of the ALP’s policy on funding for community legal centres. Last year the ALP announced that they would provide CLCs with $42.9 million over 3 years to assist CLCs undertaking family violence-related work. Over the coming weeks, the ALP will be announcing allocation of that funding to specific CLCs across Australia.
To date the Coalition has provided or pledged $15 million over 3 years and some part of $30 million for CLCs to undertake family violence-related work.
While the announcements are welcome, neither the ALP nor Coalition funding commitments are sufficient to address the broader funding cuts facing CLCs, and fall short of solving the crisis facing the legal assistance sector.
The National Association of Community Legal Centres continues to call on all parties to commit to:
- Reversing the $12.1 million funding cut to Community Legal Centres nationally in 2017-2018, the $11.6 million cut in 2018-2019 and the $11.13 million cut in 2019-2020 (amounting to a $34.83 million cut over the period 2017-18 to 2019-2020) under the National Partnership Agreement on Legal Assistance Services.
- Implementing the Productivity Commission’s recommendation from its Access to Justice Arrangements Inquiry and provide an immediate injection of $200 million per year into the legal assistance service sector, which should be shared between the Commonwealth (60%) and the States and Territories (40%). This should equate to at least an additional $24 million per year allocated to CLCs ($14.4 million p.a. Commonwealth and $9.6 million p.a. from States and Territories)
- Committing to implementing an appropriate process for determining adequate and sustainable longer-term funding contributions to the legal assistance sector by both Federal and State and Territory Governments, in consultation with the sector.