Queensland Law Society

QLS: Federal Government crippling vital justice safety net by cutting CLC funding

This morning, president Christine Smyth joined with Queensland’s Attorney-General Yvette D’Ath and Community Legal Centres Queensland Director James Farrell to urge the Federal Government to reverse the decision to cut $2 million in vital community legal centres (CLCs) funding.

The press conference was held at the Society’s annual Symposium, where Queensland solicitors heard an impassioned address from president Christine Smyth on the importance of community legal centres and the dire consequences to the community of the Federal Government cutting funding to CLCs.

“It is disturbing that the Federal Government appears to be waging a war on the disadvantaged through funding cuts to vulnerable members of our communities,” she said.

“Cuts to the Family Court, cuts to Legal Aid, cuts to CLCs – this is just the start, when will it stop?”

Attorney-General and Minister for Justice Yvette D’Ath said the $2 million cuts to Queensland Community Legal Centres would hit Queenslanders who need the most support.

“It is everyday Queenslanders who access these legal services – mums and dads, grandparents, young people, tenants, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, people with a disability, people with mental health issues, and the list goes on,” she said.

“Some of them are among the most vulnerable in Queensland and we need to support them, not cut vital assistance.”

President Christine Smyth noted the assistance private solicitors provide to the community each year, stating that over 290,000 hours of pro bono was conducted by them in 2015-16.

“Queensland’s legal profession already provide an incomparable amount of pro bono work,” she said.

“No other profession provides this amount of free community assistance in Queensland and this is no substitute for proper government funding of essential services.

“Government’s role is to provide essential services and infrastructure – legal advice is an essential social service, and one that is the responsibility of government to provide.

“Where government fails to do this, it is somewhat cynical to expect the private sector to fill the role of government. We pay our taxes so that government can provide these services.”

President Christine Smyth told journalists that the impact of these cuts would largely affect the vulnerable and disadvantaged members of our Society.

“It will have a significant economic impact as people dedicated to social justice who work in CLCs will lose their jobs.

“They have families to feed as well. This will place greater burden on the remaining CLC workforce to serve the needs of the community.

“It will create a skills gap for emerging solicitors who volunteer their time to assist at our CLCs as the remaining workforce will be unable to properly supervise volunteers, which means even greater pressure on a system that is crumbling under the weight of this assault.

“For those who visit a community legal centre as a last resort, we will see catastrophic consequences which may include being put through the revolving door of justice or even homelessness.

“As Ghandi said, the true measure of any society can be found in how it treats its most vulnerable members.”

ENDS

For further information, please contact Mel Raassina on 07 3842 5849 or via email, m.raassina@qls.com.au.