Vital community legal funding restored after federal government backflip

RELIEF: Hume Riverina Community Legal Service's Sarah Rodgers hopes new government funding will save the centre from losing the equivalent of one full-time lawyer.
RELIEF: Hume Riverina Community Legal Service's Sarah Rodgers hopes new government funding will save the centre from losing the equivalent of one full-time lawyer.

Vulnerable people may no longer have to be turned away from under-resourced legal centres after the federal government backflipped on funding cuts.

Hume Riverina Community Legal Service has welcomed Attorney General George Brandis’ announcement abandoning plans to slash what was effectively $35 million in funding from community legal centres.

In contrast to the previous plan to cut funding from July 1, he promised an extra $55.7m, to be confirmed in the May 9 budget, prioritising victims of domestic violence and Indigenous people.

“The government has always recognised the essential role of the legal assistance sector in providing access to justice for the most vulnerable Australians,” Senator Brandis said.

HRCLS principal lawyer Sarah Rodgers said she expected the funding to relieve pressure on services and help people facing major legal issues including family law and family violence.

“In the last financial year, 300 people were turned away due to insufficient resources,” she said.

“We are yet to receive specific details about what this will mean for HRCLS and we are looking forward to learning whether previous funding levels will be reinstated.

“If this is the case, it will end the uncertainty we have faced and enable us to continue our vital work.”

Senator Bridget McKenzie said the funding, to run over three years, would go to frontline services.

“As the national conversation on domestic and family violence continues, more people are coming forward to seek a range of assistance measures and the Turnbull government has listened and responded,” she said.