ACT community legal services will provide a range of new initiatives to assist women - including victim survivors - and people needing mental health support, following the distribution of more than $8 million in Commonwealth funding.
Commonwealth Attorney-General Michaelia Cash announced $8.372 million for the ACT under the National Legal Assistance Partnership 2020-2025 (NLAP).
“Across Australia, we are working with states and territories through the NLAP to invest in these important services,” Attorney-General Cash said. “We will provide more than $2.3 billion over 5 years for legal assistance services across Australia under the partnership, investing in valuable services right across the ACT’s legal assistance sector.”
ACT Attorney-General Shane Rattenbury welcomed the funding boost to local community legal services and announced the initiatives that the funding will support.
“Community legal assistance is crucial for the fair and equitable functioning of our justice system and our society,” Attorney-General Rattenbury said. “Our community legal centres and legal assistance providers do an amazing job of meeting the high community demand for quality legal advice and support, especially for people who cannot otherwise access legal representation.
“These funds will expand the capacity of legal assistance services to respond to the legal needs of vulnerable Canberrans, particularly during the challenging times created by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The collaborative initiatives put forward by the legal assistance sector are high quality and impactful, particularly the specialised Mental Health Justice Clinic and its training partnership with Rebus Theatre, which will provide critical services to people experiencing mental health related legal issues and strengthen the capacity of legal practitioners to support persons with mental health conditions to access the justice system.”
The funding will support a range of initiatives including:
- an additional lawyer for Legal Aid ACT to provide duty lawyer services as a part of Legal Aid ACT’s Family Violence Unit;
- the continuation and expansion of the Parachute Program at Canberra Community Law, which provides specialist legal assistance support on housing and social security issues to women experiencing family violence;
- the extension and expansion of the Family Advocacy Support Services program at Legal Aid ACT through the engagement of a dedicated mental health support worker;
- the enhancement of the Commonwealth’s Domestic Violence Unit at the Women’s Legal Centre by enabling the service to provide dedicated mental health support to clients accessing the service;
- the expansion of legal services at CARE Inc. to support people experiencing mental health related financial matters;
- the creation of a specialised Mental Health Justice Clinic at Canberra Community Law to strengthen the accessibility of the justice system for people experiencing mental health conditions;
- the employment of a lawyer at Women’s Legal Centre to support women who have experienced or are experiencing sexual harassment and discrimination in the workplace.
Providers of legal assistance services were invited to make funding submissions to the ACT Government following a roundtable discussion with the Attorney-General in October 2021. The funds will be distributed to the service providers early 2022.
Funding in the ACT under the National Legal Assistance Partnership 2020-2025
Legal Aid ACT
- Family Advocate and Support Services Program Extension and Expansion - $2.750M
- Supporting Increased Child Sexual Abuse Prosecutions - $0.124M
- Mental health supervision and debriefing assistance package for staff across the legal assistance sector - $0.240M
- Additional duty lawyer in Family Violence Unit - $0.480M
Women’s Legal Centre
- Domestic Violence Unit Enhancement - $0.584M
- Frontline Support to address Workplace Sexual Harassment - $0.843M
- Supporting the delivery of legal assistance services to vulnerable women - $1.882M
Canberra Community Law
- New Mental Health Justice Clinic - $0.562M
- Expansion of Parachute Program - $0.441M
- Expansion of legal services to support people experiencing mental health related financial matters - $0.300M
Justice and Community Safety Directorate
- Additional State Administration Funding - $0.165M