Threat­ened le­gal cen­tres gain re­prieve

Pilbara News - - Sports - Ali­cia Per­era

Pil­bara com­mu­nity le­gal ser­vices have ex­pressed re­lief af­ter the new State Gov­ern­ment last week can­celled a pro­posed se­vere cut to their funding.

Com­mu­nity le­gal cen­tres across WA were fac­ing a more than 30 per cut to funding for their ser­vices from mid-year, but last week At­tor­ney-Gen­eral John Quigley an­nounced the Gov­ern­ment would pro­vide a $1.2 mil­lion re­prieve to the sec­tor that would re­store funding to its former level.

The Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment also com­mit­ted more funding for com­mu­nity le­gal cen­tres over the next five years as part of its 2017-18 budget.

Pil­bara Com­mu­nity Le­gal Ser­vice chief ex­ec­u­tive Nanette Wil­liams said the State funding meant the ser­vice would avoid a cut which had kept staff in a state of limbo, un­der which it could only em­ploy two prin­ci­pal so­lic­i­tors for the re­gion on a tem­po­rary ba­sis.

“We have all been lob­by­ing be­cause we could not af­ford to lose it,” she said.

“It’s a big re­lief for us, be­cause there’s quite a de­mand for our le­gal ser­vices, more than we can ac­tu­ally cope with.”

In a state­ment last week, Abo­rig­i­nal Le­gal Ser­vice WA chief ex­ec­u­tive Den­nis Eg­ging­ton said the funding an­nounce­ment came as a “huge re­lief” and pre­vented some dras­tic con­se­quences, in­clud­ing the clo­sure of some of its 13 of­fices and a re­duc­tion of staff.

“We al­ready op­er­ate with min­i­mal staff with huge caseloads, so to have this fur­ther re­duced would have been dis­as­trous for com­mu­nity mem­bers ac­cess­ing our ser­vices,” he said.

“It’s not just the high de­mand on ser­vices, it’s en­sur­ing that there is an eq­ui­table ser­vice that un­der­stands the di­verse com­plex­i­ties that of­ten ac­com­pany Abo­rig­i­nal peo­ple and the law.

“With­out an Abo­rig­i­nal Le­gal Ser­vice, many of this State’s most dis­ad­van­taged peo­ples wouldn’t seek le­gal as­sis­tance at all.”

Ms Wil­liams said com­mu­nity le­gal cen­tres were vi­tal as a “on­estop shop” to af­ford­ably ad­dress res­i­dents’ le­gal mat­ters and link them up with a wide range of ser­vices.

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