Federal Member for Ballarat, Catherine King, today slammed the Turnbull government for persisting with devastating cuts to community legal centres.
“Community Legal Centres like Central Highlands Community Legal Centre are facing devastating cuts of 30 per cent of their overall funding from July this year,” Ms King said.
“This government is willing to waste $50 billion on corporate tax cuts for big business and the banks but it cannot provide enough funds to community legal centres to keep their doors open.”
Central Highlands Community Legal Centre will be forced to turn away 20 Ballarat residents every week from 1 July thanks to devastating cuts inflicted by George Brandis and the Turnbull Government.
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, civil disputes and employment issues.
“Central Highlands Community Legal Centre and its dedicated staff have been helping our local community for over 20 years. Now it is set to lose 30 per cent of its funding, which will seriously jeopardise its ability to operate,” Ms King said.
Central Highlands Community Legal Centre coordinator Lisa Buckland has outlined the challenges these funding cuts will pose.
“The CHCLC currently has three lawyers and a principal, and operates on a two to three week backlog of work. These cuts result in the loss of one of those lawyers,” Ms Buckland said.
“They simply won’t be able to keep up with the work, or assist members of our community who need help.
“When CHCLC lawyers already have over 215 active cases, increasing that load by a third just isn’t good enough.
“This Government needs to realise how much good work Community Legal Centres do, treat us with the respect we deserve and give us the funding certainty we need to help our community.”
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 incompetent, and so out of touch, that he has barely been able to bring himself to visit more than a handful of Community Legal Centres,” Ms King said.
“Labor calls on the government to reverse these cruel cuts as a matter of urgency. Vulnerable people in Ballarat are at risk, and I will continue to advocate on behalf of Central Highlands Legal Centre.”
THURSDAY 23 February 2017