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Fair funding for legal services to meet community need

Media Release
Penny Wright 31 Aug 2012

The Australian Greens have echoed the call of Community Law Australia for a federal review of legal assistance services to ensure funding of all services adequately matches community need.

 Australian Greens spokesperson for Legal Affairs, Senator Penny Wright, who will speak at the National Conference of Community Legal Centres at the Hilton Adelaide this afternoon, said there was clear evidence that the current funding level for Community Legal Centres was not enough to meet demand, despite the strong cost-benefit of funding them.

 "We have recently heard from the Australian Council of Social Services that almost three quarters of legal centres cannot meet demand and approximately 14 per cent of people who sought assistance in 2010/11 were turned away," Senator Wright said.

 "According to the Australia Institute, about 500,000 Australians are missing out on legal services, including our most disadvantaged, such as low income earners and people from non-English speaking backgrounds.

 "We all benefit from all legal assistance services being properly funded because for every $1 that we spend on Community Legal Centres, governments save $100 in justice system spending further down the track.

 "In June, I moved a motion which was passed in the Senate, that called on the Government to broadly investigate the unmet need in legal assistance services, with a view to improve the use and funding of services and advance access to justice.

 "Access to justice is the cornerstone of a fair society and the role of legal assistance services is crucial.  They must be funded adequately to make this a reality."

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