Promises for overburdened Ballarat legal service

Labor has this week promised $300,000 over three years for the Central Highlands Community Legal Service. 

Catherine King said the money would help make up for funding cuts by the current government. 

“I’m delighted that a Labor Government will provide an extra $100,000 per year over three years  to Central Highlands Community Legal Service,” she said.

“The extra $300,000 funding will help offset some of the savage cuts made by the Liberals and  Nationals.” 

Liberal candidate Sarah Wade said the party was supporting legal centres but allowing state bodies to distribute funding. 

“Adequate investment in frontline services is critical to save lives and to disrupt intergenerational cycles of violence, dysfunction and disadvantage,” she said. 

“That’s why the Turnbull Government has invested $30 million in new funding over three years in this year’s 2016 budget to implement the Third Action Plan under the National Plan to Reduce Violence Against Women and Their Children. 

“The $30 million announced will include increased funding for legal aid commissions, community legal centres, and selected family relationship centres. Funding will be allocated in a targeted manner on the advice of the COAG Advisory Panel on Domestic Violence.”

Central Highlands managing lawyer Natalie Heynes told The Courier last month she believed much of the progress made through the Royal Commission into Family Violence will come unstuck in the federal family law courts if legal aid is not adequately funded.

“Underfunding has resulted in a ‘mean’ means test which effectively sees our lawyers not only turning away mums and dads caught up in family disputes, but others living in poverty and on pensions,” she said.

“These are people who need our help but are not considered poor enough to qualify for legal aid. They often need help with common problems like housing, fines and discrimination which can then escalate and have a worse impact on the community if left unchecked.”