Staff at the Illawarra Legal Centre are enjoying a reprieve after a NSW Government grant saved them from funding cuts forced upon them by Canberra.
The centre’s ability to help people who lack the means to pay for legal advice would have been threatened from July 1, when the federal government cuts take effect.
But an extra $6 million statewide over three years, announced by NSW Attorney General Mark Speakman this week, will fill the void.
ILC co-ordinator Truda Gray said the extra funding would help cover essential work – and the centre would not have to turn away clients or cut staff.
“This is great news for the Illawarra region,” she said. “Our centre works with such a range of people who would otherwise have no access to legal assistance: people who have experienced discrimination at work or been unfairly dismissed, people facing unfair debts from Centrelink, people leaving domestic violence, people who are in no position to pay for the legal help they need.
“Without this injection of funds from the state government, Illawarra Legal Centre was facing having to turn away 400–500 people per year and reduce the hours (across) six staff members.”
Without this injection of funds Illawarra Legal Centre was facing having to turn away 400-500 people per yearTruda Gray
Ms Gray said she was grateful for the support of local MPs both state and federal in pushing for a solution.
ILC principal solicitor Phillip Dicalfas said for services was still beyond the centre’s capacity.
“The federal government needs to recognise the huge benefit of the early intervention community legal centre (CLC) sector which keeps many legal issues from escalating to expensive court processes,” he said. “The Federal Government needs to take the advice of the Productivity Commission about the need to increase funding to CLCs.”
Member for Kiama Gareth Ward said the decision was a “major win” for the community.
“CLCs do incredible work helping disadvantaged people with legal problems and the NSW Government’s action will secure their services for the future following the non-renewal of a federal funding program,” he said.