MEDIA RELEASE: Canberra lawyers rally for community legal centre funding – Wednesday 18 May 2016

Tuesday 17 May 2016

Lawyers call for legal help for the most vulnerable

Canberra lawyers will rally on Wednesday 17 May to call on the Federal Government to reverse dramatic funding cuts to community legal centres and ensure they can meet the needs of Canberrans who need legal help.

The rally will start at 8am on Wednesday 17 May at the Community Legal Centre Hub at 21 Barry Dr, Turner and is scheduled to end at 8:45am at the ACT Supreme Court.

Community Legal Centres are funded by the Federal and ACT Governments, but Commonwealth contribution to funding to community legal centres in Canberra is due to plummet by almost 30% in July 2017. The looming crisis in community legal centre funding in Canberra will be felt by those people who need the support the most.

In Canberra, the Women’s Legal Centre, the Care Consumer Law Centre, Canberra Community Law and the Tenants’ Union provide crucial support to some of the most vulnerable people in our community. They provide legal assistance to people who would otherwise go without. Together, these services provided over 6000 pieces of advice and took on over 500 cases over the last 12 months.

Julie Dobinson, Chair of the Women’s Legal Centre Board and Partner at one of Canberra’s preeminent family law firms said, “Lawyers understand it is not enough to build a legal system, you have to support people to be able to use that system. If a woman is leaving a violent relationship and doesn’t have access to any legal advice, she is more likely to make an agreement with her ex partner that does not protect her safety, her kids’ safety or her financial security. If her matter does go to court she is open to being cross-examined by her violent ex-partner. Legal assistance is a crucial part of responding to domestic violence.”

Daniel Stewart, Chair of the Canberra Community Law Board and Senior Lecturer at the ANU Law School said, “It just makes good economic sense to fund community Legal Centres properly. We want to prevent Canberrans from falling into crisis. Early, specialist legal advice for those who would otherwise go without can prevent the escalation of legal problems. This reduces costs to the justice system and other areas of government spending, including health, housing, social security and emergency assistance.”

Julie Dobinson said, “Many Canberra lawyers donate significant amounts of time and expertise to community legal centres pro bono. This rally is an opportunity for us to show the Canberra community our support for access to justice for all people.”

Media contacts:
Elena Rosenman, Executive Director, Women’s Legal Centre, 0408 133 115
Genevieve Bolton, Executive Director, Canberra Community Law, 0417 192 780
Deb Pippen, Executive Officer, Tenants’ Union ACT, 02 6247 1026
Carmel Franklin, Director Care Financial Counselling and Consumer Law Centre, 0402 011 600