Page 3282 - Week 10 - Wednesday, 19 October 2022

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I think this is tied to the accommodation priority and the accommodation needs of Legal Aid, and I do press the Attorney-General to make that plain and clear as soon as possible. Then—who knows?—there may be some more money released for the actual on the ground work of providing legal aid support to the more vulnerable in our community.

Just touching on their service to family violence, last year I note that 39 per cent of their services were family violence related. Certainly, it is an important area to look at for government, whole-of-government issues. That is being done at the federal level, I noted recently. It is a priority, I think, for all parties in this house to ensure that people in these family relationships are safe in such relationships. It is so tragic to see that that is not always the case.

I do want to thank, again, Legal Aid for the work that they do. I am available, as shadow attorney-general. My door is open to discuss with them issues that they have, ways that they think their work can be enhanced and whether they are properly funded to meet community demand, particularly at the time that we are coming out of, with shutdowns, and hopefully entering our new normal. It has changed the environment in our homes, in our businesses and in our workplaces, and there will be, at all times, really, some who have that need for legal support. I am glad to see that that is available through the Legal Aid Commission. Again, I extend an open invitation to them for briefings, for suggestions on how their work can be improved and how their services can be further enhanced. Thank you.

MR RATTENBURY (Kurrajong—Attorney-General, Minister for Consumer Affairs, Minister for Gaming and Minister for Water, Energy and Emissions Reduction) (10.59): I am pleased to speak to the Legal Aid line, because of course they perform fantastic work, serving some of the most vulnerable people in Canberra. It is difficult work, but it is incredibly valuable in improving outcomes and helping to find productive solutions to some of the worst disadvantage that we see in our city. I note that the staff at Legal Aid are passionate about their jobs. They work incredibly hard and they seek to serve as many people as they can.

I think that there is a challenge there in that, certainly through the pandemic period, we have seen increases in the number of approaches. They have laid out that data. That is why there is additional funding for Legal Aid in this budget. There has been $2.841 million allocated over four years to provide more resources to Legal Aid’s family violence unit, the Older Persons ACT Legal Service and Legal Aid’s helpline to strengthen Legal Aid’s capacity to support vulnerable members of the community and manage the ongoing increase in demand for these services here in the territory.

The government will also continue to support criminal case conferencing in the ACT Supreme Court. This initiative builds on the 2021-2022 budget initiative, criminal case conferencing in the Supreme Court, which encourages negotiated settlements and improves the overall efficacy of the criminal justice process and better justice support for vulnerable Canberrans. We provided increased support to the Legal Aid Commission to meet the increased demand for the commission’s services.

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