DELEGATES from all over Australia were in Fremantle last week to discuss the future of community legal centres (CLCs) amid millions of dollars in funding cuts.
With 30 per cent of federal funding to be lost from July 1 next year, centres around Australia, including Fremantle, expect to lose up to $35 million over the next three years.
Fremantle MHR Josh Wilson, who was at the National Association of Community Legal Centre (NACLC), said the cuts were “unjust and stupid”
“Without properly funded community legal services many people on the brink of crisis will fall off the edge, and in almost every case that will actually cost more in terms of welfare and crisis support,” he said.
“Fair access to our legal system is a basic human right and it’s a cornerstone of Australia’s commitment to social justice and social inclusion.
“For every dollar cut from community legal services there is a flow-on cost of around $4 to the social safety net because when people are forced into homelessness or financial crisis they have no other choice.”
The event also spruiked a new collaboration between CLCs and health organisations to give patients with legal problems better access to justice and health services.
NACLC spokesman Daniel Stubbs said disability and chronic illness was associated with an increase in legal issues, but the new service could also be affected by the funding cuts.
“We welcome Federal Government investment in Health Justice Partnerships (HJP), and a range of CLCs across Australia now have HJPs, including as a result of funding under the Women’s Safety Package,” he said.
“Unfortunately however, many of the HJPs are funded as pilots and/or in centres that are facing broader funding cuts of 30 per cent from 1 July next year.
“If the Federal Government is serious about addressing legal problems for the most vulnerable and disadvantaged members of our community, then funding CLCs and HJPs should be a priority.”