Page 759 - Week 03 - Tuesday, 8 April 2014

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DR BOURKE: Attorney, can you tell us more about how the community legal hub facilities will facilitate collaboration between the community and legal centres?

MR CORBELL: I thank Dr Bourke for his supplementary. We know from research that vulnerability to multiple legal problems compounds as disadvantage becomes increasingly concentrated. We know from the recent New South Wales Law and Justice Foundation’s law survey report that 50 per cent of Canberrans experience at least one legal problem a year and 20 per cent experience three or more.

Many of these legal problems are encountered and dealt with, often unsatisfactorily, due to a lack of legal assistance. So the provision of community legal services assists people in these circumstances with better access to advice and, in appropriate circumstances, advocacy and representation to have their problems resolved, reducing stress and reducing what can often be the compounding problems associated with social or economic disadvantage.

The operation of the three community legal centres in a central location will facilitate better collaboration. The centres have indicated that it means they can work more closely together, particularly when it comes to problems encountered by the same clients in a range of areas. It also means that they can operate more effectively with other parts of the community support sector, including family relationship centres, the Aboriginal Legal Service, the Human Rights Commission, women’s refuges, Legal Aid ACT, the Canberra Rape Crisis Centre and private lawyers.

So this is a great new capacity. I am very pleased that private legal firms continue to provide support through their pro bono activities to the community legal centres. This new accommodation will certainly assist those centres to accommodate those offers of assistance.

MADAM SPEAKER: A supplementary question, Ms Berry.

MS BERRY: Attorney, how will the community legal centre hub support volunteers and pro bono assistance to these legal centres?

MR CORBELL: I thank Ms Berry for her supplementary. We know that there are a range of services provided by the community legal centres which are reaching out to those who are most disadvantaged. In particular, and for example, the Welfare Rights and Legal Centre provides the street law program, an initiative funded by this Labor government in the last term of government. Street law operates with significant support from pro bono partners, and the operation of the new community legal service, through this new hub, will provide a greater capacity to coordinate and deliver those services in-house, without the need to find alternative places to provide those services. It will also co-locate them with important services and pro bono services offered, for example, by the ANU College of Law, which sees legal students providing pro bono assistance under the supervision of a trained solicitor. These are great services for our community and are important in addressing disadvantage, and they are now centrally located in a single centre.

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