Community Legal Centres (CLCs) provide valuable legal advice and support for thousands of people who would otherwise be on their own. As well as being the frontline for many family violence and family law cases, they provide legal services for a diverse range of people in our community, including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, women, tenants, older people, youths and people with a disability. CLCs also cover a variety of specialist areas such as consumer law, welfare rights, immigration and refugee rights.
Despite this, the Commonwealth slashed funding for CLCs from $42 million per year to $30 million per year in 2017. The situation in South Australia is even worse, where the State Government only provides 19.5% of CLC funding, compared with 40 to 60% in most other states and territories.
With both federal and state governments failing to prioritise community legal assistance, CLCs will be forced to turn away vulnerable South Australian in ever-increasing numbers due to a lack of resources. Community legal services are rapidly approaching a funding cliff placing their very survival at risk. This will potentially place justice beyond the reach of many South Australians.
In recent years, a number of valuable community legal services in South Australia have been forced to either close or reduce operations to very limited basis.
The Greens believe that:
- Access to justice is a fundamental right
- Legal advice should be available to everyone, including those on low incomes and vulnerable situations
- CLCs play an essential role in the operation of an effective legal system and their survival must be guaranteed
The Greens will:
- Guarantee the survival of CLCs in South Australia
- Increase funding to CLCs in line with other jurisdictions
- Restore the Welfare Rights Centre
- In partnership with the federal party room, continue to lobby the Commonwealth to reverse the funding cuts to legal services, restoring CLC funding to previous levels