Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2015 Week 03 Hansard (Tuesday, 17 March 2015) . . Page.. 693 ..
shows that victims of family violence face significant barriers to reporting crimes to the police. To facilitate access to financial assistance, in particular services that improve safety for these victims, the new scheme will recognise reports to government agencies or health professionals instead of the police in certain circumstances.
I am very pleased this Labor government is changing support services to be more responsive to those who are experiencing family violence. However, sustainability for these support services is not possible without an ongoing commitment to funding. In December 2013 the commonwealth government announced funding cuts to the legal assistance sector. The reduction in commonwealth funding will have a significant impact on the capacity of our community legal centres within the ACT to respond to and support victims of family violence.
The community legal centres that were receiving funding from the commonwealth government included the Consumer Law Centre, which provides financial counselling advice; Canberra Community Law, previously known as the Welfare Rights and Legal Centre, which includes the Street Law outreach legal service; the Women’s Legal Centre; the Aboriginal Legal Service; and the Tenants Union. All these services deal with and support victims of domestic and family violence. They are at the coalface, and they require ongoing funding to ensure support for vulnerable women facing domestic and family violence or sexual assault.
In the ACT, legal services provided through Legal Aid ACT, the Women’s Legal Centre and Canberra Community Law are funded in part by the commonwealth. The commonwealth government estimates there will be a $15 million reduction in its legal assistance funding to the states and territories over the next four years. Canberra Community Law provides a range of services to people on low incomes or facing disadvantage in Canberra and the region. In May last year, the commonwealth advised Canberra Community Law that, effective from 1 July this year, it will terminate its agreement funding of $240,000 over four years. The agreement was initially from 1 July 2013 to 30 June 2017. This amounts to a loss of $120,000 over two years, and it will be likely to lead to increased risks for women and their children because they will no longer be able to access a specialist, safe, women only legal service that provides support to many victims of family violence.
The government are working closely with stakeholders, including the Domestic Violence Prevention Council and the Victims of Crime Commissioner, to ensure that as a government we can present the strongest possible response to domestic and family violence. We all, I believe, collectively view acts of domestic and family violence as intolerable. I am sure we all have a strong and ongoing commitment to ending domestic and family violence. But the key message from the community and from our law enforcement partners is that this is now very much a time for action. We need to continue to work together to ensure a proactive response to domestic and family violence that is targeted, long term and effective. I present the following paper:
Domestic and family violence—Ministerial statement, 17 March 2015.
That the Assembly takes note of the paper.