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Fate of Victorian community legal centres still uncertain.

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Robert McClelland - Fate Of Victorian Community Legal Centres Still Uncertain Monday, 04 June 2001

Fate Of Victorian Community Legal Centres Still Uncertain Robert McClelland - Shadow Attorney-General

Media Statement - 1 June 2001

Robert McClelland today welcomed the Attorney-General's apparent about-face on the funding of community legal centres in Victoria - but warned that some Victorian centres still face closure if the Commonwealth places unreasonable conditions on its offer to fund new services.

"The Victorian review had proceeded on the basis that there was to be no increase in funding from the Commonwealth under any circumstances," said Mr McClelland.

"While the offer to work with the Victorian government to fund new centres is a step in the right direction, the tone of the offer suggests that the Attorney-General has learned nothing from the review.

"The federal government still fails to understand that community legal centres are most effective when they are built from the ground up. Meeting legal need in outer metropolitan, rural and regional areas is not as easy as identifying regions on a map on the basis of an analysis of socio-economic data and then imposing a solution from Canberra.

"In many cases it is going to be more effective to assist existing community legal centres - which have well-developed volunteer support structures and expertise built up over many years - to expand their outreach services to embrace larger catchment areas in growth corridors.

"It is unfortunate that the Attorney-General is more used to lecturing community legal centres on what they should be doing and where they should be located, rather than working more constructively with those centres to improve the delivery of legal services.

"The offer of additional funding would be more sincere if annual cuts to funding for legal aid in Victoria to the tune of $5 million were also restored.

"I fear that, unless the Attorney takes a more flexible approach to the identification of the areas which would benefit from additional assistance and the best ways to meet those needs, his promise of additional funding will not be realised and the fate of existing centres will remain in jeopardy.

"The Attorney-General is yet to guarantee that there will be no closures of Victorian community legal centres. I call on him to do so." Authorised by Geoff Walsh, 19 National Circuit, Barton ACT 2600.

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