Member for Cunningham, Sharon Bird MP and Member for Whitlam, Stephen Jones MP have today called on the Turnbull Government to reverse the cruel cuts to the Illawarra Legal Centre.
From July 1, the Illawarra Legal Centre will be forced to turn away around 500 Illawarra locals thanks to the Turnbull Government’s devastating cuts to Community Legal Centres through the National Partnership Agreement.
Community Legal Centres help hundreds of thousands of people around Australia in need of free legal assistance who do not qualify for legal aid. They are on the frontline in the battle against domestic violence and assist people with problems as diverse as Centrelink debt, tenancy disputes and employment issues.
“The Illawarra Legal Centre and their dedicated staff have been providing free legal advice and assistance to people in the Illawarra for 30 years, helping 5,000 people in need every year,” Member for Cunningham, Sharon Bird said.
“In 2016-17 the Federal Government contributed 65 per cent of the Illawarra Legal Centre funding from the National Partnership Agreement, with the rest coming from the NSW Government. However, 85 per cent of the Centre’s cases are related to Federal issues. Now they are facing a 21 per cent cut in their National Partnership funding thanks to the Liberal government, which will seriously jeopardise their ability to help vulnerable locals.”
“This is a cut of $166,000, as well as a loss of the corresponding administration support.”
“As the only free legal service in the Illawarra, Illawarra Legal Centre provides a one-stop shop for assistance in areas such as general legal, welfare rights, child support, financial counselling, and tenancy. Many of their clients require assistance across multiple areas and these cuts will have a weakening effect on the central coordination and legal oversight of all their programs,” Ms Bird said.
“These devastating cuts will force the Legal Centre turn away 500 people in need of legal assistance. Unresolved legal issues generate a range of flow-on effects, putting greater pressure on other legal assistance providers, courts and the justice system, as well as communities in general, resulting in poorer outcomes,” Member for Whitlam, Stephen Jones said.
“When in Government, Labor delivered Community Legal Centres a funding injection worth more than $70 million over four years. Now George Brandis is taking that funding away and trying to blame Labor”,
“This is an Attorney General so out of touch that he has barely been able to bring himself to visit more than a handful of Community Legal Centres in his four years in the job.”
“Labor calls on the government to reverse these cruel cuts as a matter of urgency. Ordinary people in the Illawarra are at risk, and we will continue to advocate on behalf of the Illawarra Legal Centre”, Mr Jones said.