The Uniting Church in Australia President Stuart McMillan has joined the National Association of Community Legal Centres (NACLC) in welcoming the federal government’s decision to reverse cuts to legal assistance services in time for the Federal Budget.
Attorney-General George Brandis on Monday announced the restoration of $55.7 million in funding to the legal assistance sector over three years, with $39 million for Community Legal Centres (CLCs) and $16.7 million allocated to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services.
“Reversing these cuts is a victory for equal access to justice and for those who joined in this campaign,” Mr McMillan said.
“Together our voices have been heard loud and clear.
“I thank each and every Uniting Church in Australia member who sent a letter to Attorney-General Brandis and signed onto our campaign to fund equal justice.”
Community Legal Centres (CLCs) and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services (ATSILS) provide free legal advice to vulnerable and disadvantaged people across Australia.
CLCs assist people in a range of areas of law including family violence, relationship breakdown, debt, consumer problems, problems with Centrelink, tenancy disputes and employment issues.
The funding cut facing CLCs of $34.8m by 1 July would have affected the most vulnerable in society, including people with disability, those living in poverty, older people and single parent families.
The Uniting Church in Australia joined the campaign to #fundequaljustice with the National Association of Community Legal Centres (NACLC) in December 2016, calling for an immediate reversal of cuts and additional funding for the legal assistance sector.
“The announcement today is a welcome one – it is excellent news for all those people who rely on the help of CLCs every day and for centres and communities across Australia,” NACLC chief executive officer Nassim Arrage said.
“This funding is a lifeline for a sector that was facing significant cuts.
“The reversal will mean people across Australia will get access to the legal help they were going to be denied from 1 July if the funding cliff went ahead.
“As a sector we are extremely grateful for the support of the Uniting Church and others across the community.
“Your support helped us illustrate to the government the importance of these services and the impact the funding cuts would have had on people across Australia.”