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Devastating cuts to community legal services must be reversed



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THE HON MARK DREYFUS QC MP SHADOW ATTORNEY-GENERAL SHADOW MINISTER FOR NATIONAL SECURITY MEMBER FOR ISAACS

DEVASTATING CUTS TO COMMUNITY LEGAL SERVICES MUST BE REVERSED

This week I will be visiting Community Legal Centres in three states to hear first-hand the devastating impact the government’s 30 per cent funding cuts will have on these vital services.

Community Legal Centres (CLCs) provide free legal services to hundreds of thousands of Australians who do not qualify for legal aid. They are on the frontline for people facing domestic violence issues, tenancy issues, and employment issues among others.

CLCs look after the most vulnerable people in Australian society and provide one of our most fundamental human rights - access to justice for all, regardless of means.

They are already overwhelmed with demand and their dedicated staff are overworked. Each year CLCs have to turn away more than 160,000 people nationally because of capacity issues.

This government and Attorney-General are going to cut funding for CLCs by a further 30 per cent on 1 July this year, which will destroy the ability of many CLCs to continue providing services.

This week I will be visiting: • Caxton Legal Service in Brisbane, which will lose its employment law service because of the cuts; • Women's Legal Service in Brisbane, which estimates the cuts will mean

helping 1,700 fewer women every year; • The North Queensland Womens Legal Service in Townsville, which estimates it will be unable to service two-thirds of its current caseload because of the

cuts;

• Gold Coast Community Legal Centre, which will lose both of its specialist domestic violence lawyers despite overwhelming demand; • Northern Rivers Community Legal Centre outreach service in the Tweed region, which may be forced to close its doors; and • Hobart Women’s Legal Service, which was set to lose $200,000 before the

State Liberal government stepped in to cover the shortfall.

Senator Brandis has thumbed his nose at some of the most hard-working lawyers in this country and their vulnerable clients. He has refused to even meet with many of the CLCs who will be affected by the cuts.

If this government can afford $50 billion in a tax cut for big business, it can afford $30 million to reverse these cuts. Senator Brandis needs to act now.

MONDAY, 13 MARCH 2017

MEDIA CONTACT: JOANNA HEATH 0427 915 633