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Thursday, 18 August 2011
Page: 8636

Mrs MARKUS (Macquarie) (10:09): I rise today to draw attention to the exceptional work done by the Elizabeth Evatt Community Legal Centre and to highlight the value that more funding would have for the centre and for the local community. The Elizabeth Evatt Community Legal Centre at Katoomba has been providing legal information and advice to disadvantaged residents in communities from the Blue Mountains to Bathurst for over 25 years. The service includes a tenant advocacy service and a women's domestic violence court advocacy service. Demand is high for all the centre's services and that demand always exceeds the centre's capacity to respond. The need for additional capacity is particularly acute in tenancy services, but the pressure on staff working in family law and domestic violence is also great.

The incidence of domestic violence in New South Wales rose 1.2 per cent in the 24 months to March 2011, a trend which has been reflected in the increasing workload of the Elizabeth Evatt Community Legal Centre. The centre offers many needed services to the community, including community legal information seminars where residents can attend and receive information on a range of areas, such as elder law, family law, domestic violence and wills. The centre also offers face-to-face consultation for residents who have more specific needs and this is a valuable source of information for all members of the Blue Mountains community.

Currently, the Elizabeth Evatt Community Legal Centre supports 13 very hard working staff members. We live in a time where many are struggling with cost-of-living pressures. These pressures were exacerbated during the winter months. The Elizabeth Evatt centre has seen a marked increase in residents who are suffering through financial hardship and in some instances homelessness. The centre works very hard to ensure that the needs of these people are met. It is important to recognise the increased workload of the team.

With this in mind, it is vital that the Elizabeth Evatt Community Legal Centre receives appropriate levels of funding. I have previously lobbied the Attorney-General on behalf of the centre to acquire funding from the Commonwealth Community Legal Services Program. The centre received $360,703 in Commonwealth and state grants under the program. The current financial hardship of many in our community has placed severe strain on the centre. I urge the government to respond to the needs that this centre is responding to.

I conclude by thanking all the staff at the Elizabeth Evatt Community Legal Centre for all the valued work that they do for the Blue Mountains community. The services they deliver are indeed greatly needed and greatly appreciated.