Local women experiencing domestic violence, family breakdown, sexual assault and discrimination would not lose current legal services under a Labor Government.
Penrith Women’s Health Centre Manager, Jane Gold, has feared the loss of such support after a 30 per cent funding cut to Community Legal Centres (CLCs) was not restored by the Turnbull Government in the 2016 Federal Budget.
Now, the Labor Party has announced increased funding to CLCs if reelected, that includes the NSW Women’s Legal Services (WLS).
WLS send specialised violence and family law services for women to Penrith once a fortnight that Ms Gold said could “tragically” be lost with funding cuts.
“Women’s Legal Services see somewhere between five and seven appointments in Penrith a day – it’s still not a lot but it’s better than none,” she said.
Ms Gold sent a letter to Senator Fiona Nash in April pleading for the restoration of funding in the May Budget, that amounted to $34.83 million by June 30 2020.
Deputy Opposition Leader Tanya Plibersek said funding cuts have caused 160,000 people around the country to be turned away from Community Legal Centres last year alone.
“Centres face a 30 per cent funding cut on 1 July 2017, which will see many centres having to close their doors to clients. This is not right and Labor will address it,” she said.
“Under a Shorten Labor Government, frontline legal services will receive around $43 million in funding over three years from 1 July 2017 so they can keep doing their vital work.”
Polly Porteous, Executive Director of Community Legal Centres NSW has called on the Coalition to match or exceed the Labor’s $43 million.
Member for Lindsay Fiona Scott’s office said the Coalition had already announced a five-year National Partnership Agreement in 2015, where State and Territory Governments allocate the funding to CLCs.
It included $1.6 billion in funding to legal aid commissions, community legal centres and Indigenous legal assistance services, increasing over the life of the agreement.
In addition, frontline legal assistance services for victims of family violence saw $15 million in September 2015 in the Women’s Safety Package, and $30 million in the 2016/17 Budget.
Ms Scott’ office also said the Coalition restored $25.5 million in funding to the legal assistance sector.