The ALA said the Commonwealth government’s failure to increase funding to “resources-strapped” Community Legal Centres (CLCs) means that people with legitimate personal injury or compensation claims are “more likely than ever to simply give up on seeking justice through the legal system”.
The comments come after the federal budget last week and as Law Week takes off across the country this week, promoting a public understanding of the law and its role in society.
ALA national president Laura Neil said this failure would unfairly impact access to justice for some of Australia’s most disadvantaged people.
“Community Legal Centres provide critical frontline legal services for people who would otherwise struggle to afford justice,” Ms Neil said.
“The failure of the Turnbull government to provide additional funding for frontline CLC services means that these people will face continuing difficulties in getting access to timely, essential legal advice to help resolve their claims.
“CLCs offer initial advice and referrals for people with legitimate personal injury and accident compensation claims to expert private solicitors in these areas.
“For many of these people, delays in getting into a CLC to receive this information often means they just give up seeking justice altogether.”
According to Ms Neil, CLCs offer advice on everything from tenancy rights to discrimination; domestic violence to employment and environmental issues; youth, family, civil and criminal law, small credit and debt matters, neighbour disputes, immigration advice, children’s court assistance, mediation, outreach legal services and Indigenous justice.
She said, by neglecting to properly fund CLCs to meet demand, “The government is essentially saying that it does not care that people are falling through the cracks”.
"These centres provide a legal and emotional lifeline to the most needy members of our community and they must be encouraged to speak out about injustice, not have their mouths wired shut to protect the government’s reputation,” Ms Neil added.