5 April 2017

The Law Society of New South Wales today congratulated the NSW Government and Attorney General Mark Speakman SC for providing a $6 million 'rescue package' for Community Legal Centres in NSW.

Society President Pauline Wright said the NSW Government's $6 million commitment will help 'fill a gap' caused by a Federal Government proposal to cut funding to community legal centres by up to 30 percent.

"Without the decisive action of the NSW Attorney General, 37 community legal centres across the state would have faced major funding cuts and job losses in July this year - resulting in the most vulnerable people in our society being denied adequate and timely legal advice and services," Ms Wright said.

Ms Wright said last financial year community legal centres in NSW provided assistance to more than 55,000 people, many of them living below the poverty line or coming from disadvantaged households.

"Community legal centres already face financial pressures, and the Federal Government's proposal would have seen centres like Redfern, Northern Rivers and Illawarra facing cuts of more than 20 per cent," Ms Wright said.

Ms Wright has called on the Federal Government to take the lead of NSW and be both compassionate and pragmatic in its future funding approach to community legal centres across Australia.

"Community legal centres provide an essential service to thousands of vulnerable people each week. They play a crucial role in helping people who are struggling with cost of living pressures seek access to justice," Ms Wright said.

Ms Wright added that due to a historical lack of funding and resourcing in the sector, people already get turned away from legal centres - sadly, some 34,000 in NSW last financial year - resulting in greater pressures and costs being shifted to our courts and police.

"I sincerely thank the new Attorney General of NSW coming to the rescue and his government's continued advocacy at the Federal level to halt these proposed funding cuts to community legal centres," Ms Wright said.

Since the Federal proposal was flagged, The Law Society of NSW has provided support to Community Legal Centres NSW to help educate people and communities about the risks and unintended consequences of major funding cuts to the sector.

"Our colleagues at Community Legal Centres NSW cite evidence showing people who do not get early advice about legal issues end up with bigger and more complex problems down the track. This can also have a significant impact on their health," Ms Wright said.

"As a regionally-based solicitor for almost two decades, I'm particularly concerned about how proposed Federal funding cuts will impact on rural and remote communities and Indigenous people throughout our state," said Ms Wright.

Media Contact: Andrew Huckel 0413 440 669

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