On 1 July 2017, Commonwealth funding for Community Legal Centres (CLCs) across Australia under the National Partnership Agreement on Legal Assistance Services 2015-2020 (NPA) will reduce by $12.1 million. This is equivalent to a funding cut of approximately 30% of total Commonwealth funding for CLCs from its 2016-2017 level.
This reduction will have a significant impact on the ability of CLCs around Australia to continue to provide vital frontline legal assistance to those who most need it. The funding cliff will severely limit our ability to continue to do the work we do.
The funding cuts will be felt unequally across the community legal sector, with some CLCs, such as the Environment Defenders Office, facing cuts of up to 72% of their funding.
Western Sydney Community Legal Centre (WSCLC) is deeply concerned about the impact that these significant funding cuts will have on our clients in Western Sydney, and on communities across Australia. Every year we help clients with a wide range of legal problems in areas such as domestic violence, homelessness, family law, tenancy, discrimination, credit and debt and employment issues.
WSCLC was formed when Mount Druitt CLC, Hawkesbury Nepean CLC and Macquarie Legal Centre amalgamated as a result of the Productivity Commission report and in anticipation of the funding cuts. While this amalgamation gives us an opportunity to maximise our capacity to provide services to those most at need, less funds means less services to vulnerable people and their communities.
The Windsor catchment area has been hardest hit, effectively meaning the loss of a legal staff position and paid administrative support. WSCLC has been offered sustainability funds, which we will use develop our capacity, but less funds mean less money in Western Sydney communities for legal aid and support around financial and debt issues, family breakdown, young people at risk, Sydney’s largest Aboriginal communities, employment entitlements as well as a range of other critical life crises.
WSCLC will continue to work hard to make the case against these cuts, together with fellow CLCs and other community organisations across Australia.
Any funding cut will place enormous stress on existing services and make it more difficult to realise our mission to reach deeper into areas of disadvantage.
What can you do?
CLCs are campaigning against these cuts. We invite you to learn more, and sign up to receive campaign updates at the Community Law Australia website.
Rosie Batty has been a wonderful advocate for community legal centres. Add your name to her letter asking the Prime Minister to reverse the funding cuts.
Fair Agenda is a community of 35,000 Australians campaigning for a fair and equal future for women. Sign their petition calling on the Prime Minister to reverse the funding cuts.
We also ask you to contact your local state and federal Members of Parliament and let them know that you value the vital work of CLCs, and that the funding cuts should be reversed.