FUNDING WORRY: Community Legal Centres Queensland director James Farrell expects funding cuts to wipe out some of the centre’s outreach services and reduce its team of three solicitors.
FUNDING WORRY: Community Legal Centres Queensland director James Farrell expects funding cuts to wipe out some of the centre’s outreach services and reduce its team of three solicitors. Contributed: Peter Glenane Photo

Hundreds of locals face legal limbo

CUTS to funding mean hundreds of Gympie region residents will be in legal limbo from July 1, 2017.

The current Federal Government cut community legal centre funding by 30% in the 2014 budget.

Unlike the nation's capital cities, there is just one free legal service for our residents to turn to when they are facing problems relating to domestic violence, divorce and separation, child protection, employment, credit, debt and consumer contract issues, disability discrimination, tenancy and neighbourhood disputes and even minor criminal issues including driving offences.

Locals who do not qualify for legal aid and who do not have enough cash to hire private solicitors will often seek help at the Taylor Street Community Legal Service.

The TSCLS helped 368 Gympie residents last financial year.

While it's still unclear how much the service will lose, it was announced in the 2014 Federal Budget that $12.1 million would be cut nationwide in 2017-18, $11.6 million would go in 2018-19 and a further $11.1 million would be cut in 2019-20.

Community Legal Centres Queensland director James Farrell said he expected the funding cut to wipe out some the centre's outreach services and reduce its team of three solicitors.

"The allocation of funds, including the cuts, will be decided by the government later this year," Mr Farrell said.

"Until then our communities don't have any certainty about their legal help."

Mr Farrell urged Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, whose government announced the cuts, and Opposition Leader Bill Shorten to make sure our region gets a fair go.

"The pending 30% funding cut for community legal centres has not been reversed, which means more and more people will be turned away when they're facing a crisis," he said.

"We need to make sure people can access legal services when they're in crisis."

There are 198 community legal centres across Australia.

About 77% of Queensland's community legal centre services were provided to regional, rural and remote areas of the state in 2015.

Their support included 100,000 pieces of legal advice to more than 50,000 clients.

Amanda Alford from the National Association of Community Legal Centres said CLCs were often the only source of legal support for regional and rural residents, so it was vital the funding cuts were reversed.

"The impact of the cuts on centres in regional areas is likely to be greater because often there's no alternative - there is nowhere else for people to go," Ms Alford said.

Gympie Times


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