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Access to justice boosted in our bush communities.

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Media Release

Mike Kelly MP

Federal Member for Eden-Monaro Parliamentary Secretary for Defence Support

Office of the Hon. Dr Mike Kelly AM MP Member for Eden-Monaro, Shop 16, City Link Plaza, Morisset Street, Queanbeyan NSW 2620

June 20, 2008 08-067

Access to justice boosted in our bush communities The Member for Eden-Monaro Mike Kelly today applauded provision of an additional $5.8 million of funding to improve access to justice for communities in regional, rural and remote Australia.

“This is great news for communities like ours in Eden-Monaro,” Dr Kelly said. “People living in the bush - in regional, rural and remote communities - are disadvantaged when it comes to getting assistance with their legal problems.

"Experience shows that if legal problems are not resolved early, they can compound and result in a range of adverse consequences, including the loss of health, job, home and relationships, which can lead to social exclusion."

Dr Kelly said this was why, in implementing the Regional Innovations Program for Legal Services, the Government has taken the opportunity to expand its scope to allow funding for a broader range of services.

The funding will be provided through legal aid commissions in New South Wales, Queensland, Western Australia and Tasmania.

These additional funds were sought for a range of capacity-building initiatives to enhance legal aid services for disadvantaged Australians in the bush, especially those facing a family breakdown.

"Helping country firms to employ lawyers and build their ability to provide local legal services will ensure people can get early help with their legal problems and prevent these problems from escalating," Dr Kelly said.

Funding also is being made available through the National Association of Community Legal Centres to support country law graduates to complete their practical legal training in regional Australia.

This will help encourage these graduates to consider long-term employment opportunities in country areas and increase the number of law graduates who choose to remain in their local communities to work as legal practitioners.

“These support measures further demonstrate our commitment to improve access to justice for vulnerable members of our community,” Dr Kelly said. “They come on top of a $10 million one-off injection for the Commonwealth Community Legal Services Program — the largest ever injection in the program’s history; and a $7 million one-off injection for legal aid.”

Media inquiries: Terry Bransdon 0488 499 166