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Federal funding shame for WA community legal services



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Federal funding shame for WA community legal services - Joint Statement Published on Scott Ludlam (http://scott-ludlam.greensmps.org.au)

Federal funding shame for WA community legal services - Joint Statement

The Greens have joined forces with organisations representing WA's community legal sector in a united push for funding to address the crisis in WA community legal service provision.

The WA community legal sector includes Legal Aid, the Aboriginal Legal Service and about 30 metropolitan and regional community legal centres in WA.

"Year-by-year erosion of core funding to this sector, traditionally sourced from the Federal Government, has created a crisis, made worse by increasing demand for these services created through the WA Government's law reform," Greens Senator for WA Scott Ludlam said.

"We are seeing more people needing legal help, especially from disadvantaged backgrounds who cannot afford private representation - and yet free community legal services have less and less resources to assist them.

"It costs $1400 to provide legal representation in a Magistrate's Court and an average $51,000 to incarcerate them, so this policy of starving the sector of funds is actually costing taxpayers millions more dollars.

WA Greens MLC Giz Watson said some of the horror stories in the sector included WA Aboriginal Legal Service lawyers seeing up to 40 cases a day and up to 60 a day in regional areas and people spending weeks trying to access legal advice.

"Some WA community legal centres are turning away one in five eligible clients and thousands of phone calls to legal advice lines go unanswered," Ms Watson said.

"Lawyers dealing with Aboriginal clients leaving the sector after years of low pay and extreme caseloads of up to 60 clients-a-day."

"WA has the highest proportion of Aboriginal incarceration in the country - a rate which has trebled in the last twenty years.

"Aboriginal women comprise 50 per cent of the female prison population, 40 per cent of the male prison population.

"Up to 80 per cent of those in juvenile detention are Aboriginal people, despite comprising 3.49 per cent of the WA population.

"We have got to fix this - and properly funding this sector is essential."

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Federal funding shame for WA community legal services - Joint Statement Published on Scott Ludlam (http://scott-ludlam.greensmps.org.au)

In conjunction with organisations from the sector as well as the WA Law Reform Commission and the WA Law Society, Senator Ludlam and Ms Watson are calling for: increased core Federal funding to Legal Aid WA, WA Community Legal Centres and the Aboriginal Legal Service WA; and the establishment of an independent Aboriginal Women's Legal Service to be funded jointly by federal and state governments.

Senator Ludlam said that establishment of a independent Aboriginal woman's legal service was particularly needed because of the conflict of interest issue that arose when lawyers from a service providing advice or representation to one person were unable to also assist their partner, or family member, who might also require legal assistance.

For more information or media inquiries, please call Eloise Dortch on 0415 507 763

 

Access to Justice Community Legal Centres Legal Aid

Source URL: http://scott-ludlam.greensmps.org.au/content/media-release/federal-funding-shame-wa-community- legal-services-joint-statement

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