Thursday, 6 April 2017
MEMBER for Northern Tablelands Adam Marshall has welcomed yesterday’s announcement from the NSW Government that it will nearly double contribution to free legal services across the state, with an additional $6 million over two years tosave Community Legal Centres (CLCs) from a funding crisis.
Mr Marshall said the extra dollars would fill the funding void caused by the Federal Government deciding to cuts is financial support, which ends at the end of the financial year.
CLC lawyers provide free advice to members of the public on criminal and civil matters, ranging from domestic violence matters to employment law. With the Federal Government to stop its contribution, centres risked losing 30 per cent of their funding before the NSW Government stepped in.
Mr Marshall said the extra funding would have benefits the region, providing added security for the North North-West Community Legal Service (NNWCLS), based in Armidale.
“The NNWCLS has 11 outreach locations, including Glen Innes, Inverell and Moree in the Northern Tablelands, and covers an area of almost 100,000 km2, with strong advocacy for Aboriginal people in particular,” he said. “It serves clients from Moree to Tenterfield and as far south as Quirindi and Gunnedah.
“It’s performing well and meeting what is a growing demand in our region. Any loss of funding would have seen our local CLC cut back on its important work,” Mr Marshall said.
“I remain disappointed that the Federal Government is walking away from CLCs but am delighted that new Attorney General Mark Speakman has listened to the representations from our community and has stepped in to ensure no CLC loses funding.
“Thanks to the state government stepping in, tough decisions no longer need to be made on who should be left without free legal advice.
“This is great news for our patch and everyone should have access to legal representation and advice, no matter what sector of the community you come from.”
NNWCLS Principal solicitor Terri King said yesterday’s news was a big win for the community.
“In the community legal sector our resources are already stretched as is – so if there were cuts to other centres, it puts more pressure on them and ourselves,” Ms King said.
With funding secured for the next two years, NNWCLS is looking to expand community awareness of their services.
“We want to help as many people as possible and to do that they need to know we exist,” Ms King said.
“With more funding, we’re able to spread the message to ensure we’re able to help as many disadvantaged people in the community as we can.”