May 23, 2023 | Katie Wand
The Federation of Community Legal Centres has welcomed continued funding to the community legal sector in the Victorian Government’s 2023 budget and is pleased to see some funding for some specific programs, including the provision of legal services in the State’s Specialist Family Violence Courts.
Despite some notable investments in community legal services, some key areas of need were excluded in the budget, including embedding legal help in the new Mental Health and Wellbeing Local Services.
Federation CEO Louisa Gibbs said, “We are pleased to see the Victorian Government’s support for the work of Community Legal Centres in an evidently lean and challenging budget. However, there is always more to be done. Next year we expect Victorian Community Legal Centres to turn away 20,000 people because demand outstrips supply. We need to ensure that that the people most in need can access legal help to achieve fair outcomes. This is particularly true for Victorians facing cost of living, social and emotional pressures.
“Legal services are a vital resource for individuals and communities, because they help people to understand their rights, make informed decisions about their options and resolve legal disputes before problems escalate.”
Research shows that for every dollar that government invests in Community Legal Centres, they return a benefit to society that is 18 times that cost.
Ms Gibbs said: “The Victorian Government is on the right track, and we particularly welcome the funding for legal services at Specialist Family Violence Courts. Legal assistance in the courts is critical in supporting victim-survivors of family violence to navigate the legal process.”
This year’s budget includes: an investment of $6.5m for Community Legal Centres each year for two years to continue successful programming; continued investment in the Pre-court Engagement/Early Resolution Service and funding for legal assistance at additional Specialist Family Violence Court sites; funding for the Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service to establish five hubs in regional Victoria; continued funding of Senior’s Rights Victoria’s statewide elder abuse hotline.
“We would encourage the Victorian Government to continue to increase funding to Community Legal Centres in the future to promote a fair, inclusive and thriving Victoria,” said Ms Gibbs.