May 19, 2023 | Katie Wand
In our 2023/4 budget submission, we’re asking for an additional boost of core funding over four years to strengthen the security of community legal sector funding in Victoria, and to enable the community legal sector to expand to meet increasing demand.
The demand for legal help from Community Legal Centres has grown significantly in the aftermath of the pandemic and due to ongoing disasters and widening inequality in Victoria. Last year, Community Legal Centres provided more than 100,000 legal services to Victorians and more than half a million people used online tools and self-help resources developed by our centres.
Nearly half of all Victorians will have a legal problem in the next 12 months, and nearly one-third will have more than one legal issue. The legal system is complex and hard to navigate. It is challenging for people to make informed choices without proper legal representation. People on low incomes facing hardship are even more likely to have complex legal problems.
Inadequate funding has meant that the community legal sector’s capacity to meet the needs of the Victorian community has not kept up with increasing demand.
We welcome the guaranteed core funding provided by government, but the reality is that this is only a small part of our funding – the sector is still highly dependent on limited and short-term funding grants. Short-term funding cycles lead to service disruption, results in loss of key staff and reduces the critical reach of Community Legal Centres to their communities. This means Victorians are unable to rely on crucial services from year to year. It also undermines important long-term planning which is critical when engaging with communities and building trust.
Through sustainable and long-term resourcing and appropriately indexed funding we can ensure all Victorians have access to the legal help they need.