Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2021 Week 04 Hansard (Thursday, 22 April 2021) . . Page.. 1116 ..
and complexity, particularly as a result of the pandemic, and Legal Aid has been vital in preventing these complex problems from deteriorating.
COVID-19 has led to a very regrettable increase, particularly in the area of family violence advocacy needs. Even without a grant of aid, Legal Aid is often there as the first step when vulnerable people desperately need help. They often provide that important landing point, and this is help we cannot afford not to give. This is much the same in the area of residential tenancies, which Mr Cain was just referring to, where Legal Aid provides a vital service to make sure that people are given the best chance to be able to stay in secure housing. The important areas covered by Legal Aid are myriad, from criminal to civil law, family violence to the incredibly high-volume helpline service, and from youth law to family law. Every one of these services helps to better the life of somebody with nowhere else to go.
I mentioned some items yesterday under the broader JACS definition, but they bear mentioning here again in the context as to the Legal Aid components. Of the $2.3 million over four years for domestic and family violence funding, $1.3 million is for Legal Aid ACT’s family violence unit, which is actually based in the court’s building. There is also the $1 million in 2020-21 to JACS Legal Aid and Community Services Directorate to develop and introduce a therapeutic care court, for care and protection matters. I think that these are both really important investments in giving Legal Aid additional capacity and in the case of the therapeutic care court, starting a new mechanism that will make a material difference in the lives of some of Canberra’s most vulnerable families.
I recently had the pleasure of visiting the Legal Aid offices and meeting some of the staff who provide these vital and much appreciated services. This can often be very difficult work, for very vulnerable people, and it is delivered in truly innovative ways with real passion, taking full advantage of technology and with a real commitment to engaging with the whole person. Just one example of this is the award-winning community liaison unit, which recognises and caters to the needs of a diverse cohort of clients from different cultural and linguistic backgrounds. Making these personal connections with people can often make the difference between people getting the help that they need or suffering in silence.
The staff really have a knack for connecting to people who would not see themselves necessarily as coming forward to seek help. Importantly, they break down things like language barriers or people’s uncertainty about accessing the system because they have come from overseas. This is why these investments in this budget are so important—to make sure that our community has the safety net in place. Legal Aid is constituted by tenacious, compassionate, confident, wonderful staff, and I extend my thanks to everyone who works there. I look forward to continuing to ensure that the agency is as well supported as it can be.
Proposed expenditure agreed to.
ACT Executive—Part 1.18
Proposed expenditure agreed to.