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Proper funding for Community Legal Centres common sense



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Penny Wright

Australian Senate Australian Greens Senator for South Australia

media release

June 21, 2012 Proper funding for Community Legal Centres common sense: Greens The Australian Greens have called on the Government to conduct a comprehensive investigation into legal assistance services to identify and respond to unmet need and gaps in service delivery. Australian Greens spokesperson for Legal Affairs, Senator Penny Wright, will move a motion in the Senate today to commemorate the 40th anniversary of Community Legal Centres and highlight the crucial role they play in providing access to justice. “Community Legal Centres fill an important gap by providing legal services to vulnerable Australians who otherwise would not be able to afford legal assistance. Unfortunately, they remain chronically underfunded and struggle to meet rising demand for their services,” Senator Wright said. “Properly funding Community Legal Centres is common sense, because for every $1 that we spend on Community Legal Centres, governments save $100 in justice system spending further down the track. “Last month during Budget Estimates, I was disappointed to hear that the current review of the National Partnership Agreement on Legal Assistance Services will not include a comprehensive examination of unmet need and gaps in current service delivery in order to improve the funding situation. “The Greens are therefore calling on the Government to broadly investigate the levels of supply and demand of legal assistance services and how many people might be missing out because of underfunding of Community Legal Centres, in order to improve the use and funding of services and advance access to justice. “Access to justice is the cornerstone of a fair society. Community Legal Centres play a vital role in delivering legal assistance to the most disadvantaged in our society - they must be adequately funded to ensure access to justice for all.” Media contact: Jennifer Maisel 0417 173 508 Motion [check against final wording]: That the Senate notes that: a) This year marks the 40th anniversary of Community Legal Centres, which started with the establishment of the Fitzroy Legal Service in Melbourne; b) There are over 200 Community Legal Centres currently operating throughout Australia;

recognises that:

a) Community Legal Centres, and the passionate and committed lawyers and advocates working for them, provide essential legal assistance services and advocacy to some of the most marginalised and disadvantaged members of our community;

b) Community Legal Centres remain under-resourced and continue to struggle to meet the rising demand for affordable and effective access to justice;

calls on the Government to:

a) Conduct a comprehensive investigation of levels of demand and supply of legal assistance services, unmet need and gaps in service delivery, with a view to directing the improved use and funding of legal assistance services and consequently advancing access to justice.