Cuts to le­gal service fund­ing

Deniliquin Pastoral Times - - COMMUNITY NEWS -

De­niliquin res­i­dents need­ing free le­gal ad­vice may be forced to wait longer for as­sis­tance due to fund­ing cuts in this year’s fed­eral bud­get, ac­cord­ing to Hume Rive­rina Com­mu­nity Le­gal Service.

HRCLS has been pro­vid­ing a free outreach le­gal service in­clud­ing vis­its to De­niliquin and Fin­ley ar­eas for many years, work­ing out of the In­tereach fa­cil­i­ties in both locations. It helps vul­ner­a­ble women and other vic­tims in need.

Hume Rive­rina CLS prin­ci­pal lawyer Sarah Rodgers said fund­ing cuts would mean less ser­vices in De­niliquin and Fin­ley, with vis­its to be cut from fort­nightly to monthly or bi-monthly. ‘‘We’re all quite dis­ap­pointed,’’ she said. ‘‘We ob­vi­ously wanted more fund­ing be­cause as it is we are al­ready turn­ing peo­ple away. Fam­ily law and fam­ily vi­o­lence is­sues take up more than half the cases we deal with.

‘‘It is fun­da­men­tal that if vic­tims are ex­pe­ri­enc­ing fam­ily vi­o­lence they have ac­cess to free le­gal ser­vices. Of­ten peo­ple in these sit­u­a­tions sim­ply choose to stay in the vi­o­lent sit­u­a­tion be­cause they can’t af­ford help and don’t know what their en­ti­tle­ments are,’’ Ms Rogers said.

Hume Rive­rina CLS has spent the past 12 months ad­vo­cat­ing for the fed­eral gov­ern­ment to re­in­state a re­duc­tion in fund­ing from $42 mil­lion down to $30 mil­lion, an­nounced in last year’s bud­get and due to come into ef­fect on July 1.

Last week’s re­sponse to the Pro­duc­tiv­ity Com­mis­sion’s Re­port all but ruled out those hopes.

The re­port rec­om­mended in 2014 that the fed­eral gov­ern­ment con­trib­ute $120 mil­lion of the $200 mil­lion per year re­quired to meet le­gal needs.

Ms Rogers said the service did not want to be in a po­si­tion where it had to deny help to peo­ple who walk through the door.

NSW Outreach lawyer Janet Os­borne and prin­ci­pal lawyer Sarah Rodgers.

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