Budget response: Community Legal Centres need to be at the heart of a healthy Victoria

May 03, 2022 |

The Federation of Community Legal Centres has welcomed the Victorian State Budget’s focus on improving healthcare services across Victoria but notes that to ensure a fair and just Victoria, community legal services need to be better funded into the future.

Federation CEO Louisa Gibbs said the pandemic had highlighted the need for increased health services across the state.  

“We recognise the importance of prioritising health in the budget this year,” she said.  

“Strong funding for our health system is critical to make sure Victorians can access the healthcare they need, and to make sure the COVID-affected system is sustainable for healthcare workers. 

However, Ms Gibbs said the pandemic had also highlighted the need for more community legal support. 

“We believe that a strong society is a fair society, and a fair society includes access to justice for all its citizens,” she said. 

“Community Legal Centres work closely with a range of healthcare providers, from hospitals to maternal health care centres to community healthcare centres, through integrated services programs. We recognise that by working together, community legal, healthcare, and community services sectors can provide holistic support for our communities, that help them to flourish. 

“More can be done, and more needs to be done to guarantee all Victorians have access to justice.” 

The Federation welcomes the funding of: 

  • $6.5m specifically for Community Legal Centre programs 
  • Decriminalising the sex work industry, including funding to St Kilda Legal Service to provide legal advice and assistance for sex workers 
  • Pre-court engagement services 
  • A new Financial Assistance Scheme for victims of crime 
  • Support for the Victims of Crime Commissioner to hold justice agencies to account and improve victims’ experiences in the justice system 
  • Implementation of the COVID-19 Fines Concession Scheme, which will allow Fines Victoria to automatically apply the concession to all eligible Victorians 
  • Support for victims of sexual violence and harm
  • Specialist LGBTIQ+ legal services at the Victorian Pride Centre 
  • Free 30-day travel passes for children in crisis.

Community Legal Centres are at the heart of ensuring a more just and thriving Victoria for all. Ms Gibbs said the Federation would continue to work with the State Government to ensure a healthy and resilient future for all Victorians. Access to justice is vital in reaching that aim. 

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