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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2021 Week 04 Hansard (Wednesday, 21 April 2021) . . Page.. 943 ..


MS CLAY (Ginninderra) (11.25): The ACT Greens understand that free or low-cost legal services are essential to ensuring access to justice for those in the community who are experiencing disadvantage. These services have been so important during COVID. They have helped out-of-work people negotiate with their landlords; they have supported people applying for income support payments through Centrelink; and they have provided much-needed legal support for people experiencing or at risk of domestic violence, which we know increased during COVID.

I am glad to see a budget priority for continuing legal and court support for vulnerable young people and for families affected by domestic and family violence. This is great. I am pleased to see that Legal Aid ACT and community legal centres received increased funding during the COVID period, given the increased need experienced during the pandemic. What is clear to me, though, is that legal need is not decreasing despite the one-off COVID grant ending. I urge the government to consider an increase in funding, particularly core funding to legal services, so that they can continue to meet ongoing legal need and so they can plan their services properly.

I sit on the justice and community safety committee and I really hope that the government accepts recommendation 19 and implements it. That recommendation calls for the ACT government to engage with Legal Aid ACT and community legal centres to identify the current scale of unmet need for these services and to quantify the additional funding they would need to address the need that is out there.

The ACT Intermediary Program is a program within the ACT Human Rights Commission. That program actively assists vulnerable witnesses to communicate with police whilst giving evidence. It was developed as a result of a recommendation of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse that found that vulnerable witnesses face extraordinarily significant communication barriers when giving evidence. An intermediary is a skilled professional who has been trained to facilitate this communication. Some of the reasons vulnerable witnesses have difficulties communicating are language delays, mental health issues, trauma, cognitive issues or simply because they are so young. This program commenced in January 2020. The demand for this innovative program is really high. I encourage the ACT government to look into its expansion to ensure that the most vulnerable in our community have the best chance to make their voices heard.

We Greens are very supportive of justice reinvestment. And we understand that we will not get a safer community by building more prisons, by building more police stations or by putting more people in prison. By the time someone gets to that stage of the justice system, the system has already failed. We make better communities by supporting people and preventing the underlying causes of crime. We do that by investing in community-based programs like housing, social supports and family centred programs.

We Greens are committed to investing significant resources in justice reinvestment programs in the ACT over the next four years. So I was really pleased to hear in estimates recently that the police force and the senior decision-makers are also supportive of this community approach. They did not want more cops on the beat;


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