Mental Health Legal Centre defunding timeline
Here you will find links to letters, media releases and media coverage about Victoria Legal Aid's decision to defund the Mental Health Legal Centre, a specialist community legal centre providing independent mental health legal services to disadvantaged people living with mental illness in Victoria.
The Federation is calling for the urgent reversal of this decision, and is advocating for this to occur in communications with Victoria Legal Aid, the Victorian Government, and the media.
On 7 February 2013, Victoria Legal Aid advised the Mental Health Legal Centre that its funding would be discontinued after 30 June 2013, and that Victoria Legal Aid would redirect current funding of approximately $363,000 to its own mental health legal services.
The withdrawal of this core funding undermines additional funding sources and means the Mental Health Legal Centre (MHLC) is at risk of closing its doors within months.
The following provides a timeline in reverse chronological order.
22 February 2013 7.30 Victoria reports on Legal Aid cuts, new eligibility guidelines, and the defunding of the MHLC, interviewing Attorney-General Robert Clark. See "Cutbacks spark calls for Vic Legal Aid review".
The Attorney-General defends the right of Victoria Legal Aid to redirect the MHLC funds to its own mental health legal services.
20 February 2013 The Federation writes to Victorian Attorney-General Robert Clark and Minister for Mental Health, Mary Wooldridge, seeking the continuation of funding for the MHLC, and making a case for continuing a service that cannot be adequately provided by Victoria Legal Aid.
19 February 2013 Victoria Legal Aid Managing Director, Bevan Warner, discusses the defunding of the Mental Health Legal Centre on 774 ABC Melbourne Evenings with Lindy Burns.
19 February 2013 Probono Australia News reports on our call to Government to reverse the decision, "Government asked to intervene in Legal Aid funding battle".
19 February 2013 Helen Versey, Principal Solicitor with the Mental Health Legal Centre, is interviewed by Jon Faine on 774 ABC Melbourne Mornings. Faine then interviews Nicole Rich, Director of Research and Communication, Victoria Legal Aid. Past problems with the MHLC are again highlighted by Rich, despite no notification of any breach of the MHLC funding agreement in its written advice regarding the defunding.
13 February 2013 The Federation issues a second media release calling for an urgent reversal of the defunding decision following a meeting of Federation members where deep concern is expressed over Victoria Legal Aid's decision. The objectivity of the decision is also questioned given Victoria Legal Aid's role as funding provider, program evaluator and funding competitor.
12 February 2013 The Federation issues its first media release calling for the reversal of the defunding decision, highlighting the distinct value of MHLC's service, potential conflicts of interest in Victoria Legal Aid expanding its own service, and the impacts on people living with a mental illness as a result of the funding withdrawal.
12 February 2013 Victoria Legal Aid responds to our letter objecting to the funding decision.
12 February 2013 The Age reports on the defunding of the MHLC, "Legal crisis looms for mentally ill" A spokesperson for Victoria Legal Aid "would not comment on whether Legal Aid would employ more duty lawyers to help with the extra workload".
11 February 2013 The Federation writes to Victoria Legal Aid to express its concern over the defunding decision and to call for its reconsideration following our meeting with the MHLC the same day.
7 February 2013 Victoria Legal Aid meets with the MHLC and presents a letter advising the defunding decision. No breach of the current funding agreement is asserted, and the letter details no concerns with current governance arrnagements.
11 or 12 December 2012 (TBC) The Board of Victoria Legal Aid meets and takes the decision to defund the MHLC.
7 December 2012 The new MHLC Board meets for the first time.
27 November 2012 The MHLC ends a period of approximately two years of statutory management, and a new Board is appointed by the Magistrates' Court following significant earlier input from Victoria Legal Aid.
This page will be updated regularly. Those interested in the campaign should also follow the Federation on Twitter at http://twitter.com/CommunitylawVic (@CommunitylawVic).