STATE Government penny pinching could mean many of the Northern Rivers’ most vulnerable battlers are denied access to legal advice and support, according to Lismore MP Janelle Saffin.
Ms Saffin has called on the Berejiklian-Barilaro Government to rethink the real impacts of a $50,340-a-year funding shortfall to the Lismore-based Northern Rivers Community Legal Centre, which took effect on July 1 for the next three years.
“The centre has a long and proud history over 20 years of providing legal help to the most vulnerable in our communities – clients experiencing family and domestic violence, indigenous clients, older people, children and youth,” Ms Saffin said.
“This funding shortfall poses a very real threat to the centre’s outreach services to areas like Murwillumbah, Tweed Heads, Pottsville or Casino. The centre has only recently added outreach to Kyogle and Grafton.”
After meeting with centre management, Ms Saffin tabled a question on notice to the NSW Attorney General Mark Speakman, asking why the funding had been reduced from 2020 to 2023, which could lead to fewer outreach services.
“How could the new competitive tendering process (introduced by the Government) help vulnerable clients to navigate the court system,” she asked. Ms Saffin is expecting Mr Speakman to provide an answer very soon.
An experienced lawyer, Ms Saffin said she had witnessed firsthand the dedication and commitment of the Northern Rivers Community Legal Centre’s lawyers and staff, and valued their contribution to social justice.
“Last year, the centre assisted a total of 634 clients, provided information and referral on 1800 occasions and held or participated in over 120 community legal education activities,” Ms Saffin said.
“Community Legal Centres NSW is lobbying the NSW Government to increase the total funding for community legal centres in New South Wales by at least $996,396, so that no centre has to endure a funding cut like this one.”
Friday, June 5, 2019.
Media contact: Peter Ellem 0437 303 875.