Page 976 - Week 03 - Thursday, 23 March 2017

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(g) total Commonwealth funding to community legal centres in the Australian Capital Territory has increased by 101 percent under the current Federal Government from $782 639 in 2012-13 to $1 421 817 in 2016-17; and

(2) calls on:

(a) the Federal Government to reverse planned cuts to community legal centres to come into effect on 1 July 2017 and provide adequate funding to community legal centres; and

(b) the Speaker to write to the Federal Attorney-General communicating this motion.”.

MS CHEYNE (Ginninderra) (11.29): I support Mr Rattenbury’s motion today. It is disappointing, at the very least, that the commonwealth has ignored calls from state and territory governments and the community sector to increase core funding to community legal centres. For the benefit of the Assembly and the Hansard, it is important to put on the record the response to a question on notice in the recent annual report hearings.

In 2014-15 commonwealth funding for ACT community legal centres was $928,217; in 2015-16, the funding was $1.122 million. Commonwealth funding for community legal centres in the ACT dropped from $1.122 million in 2015-16 to $1.072 million in 2016-17. It will drop again to $807,000 in 2017-18. This represents a reduction in funding of almost 25 per cent in one year. The remaining two years of the national partnership agreement on legal assistance services will see a further $532,000 reduction from the 2015-16 funding level, making the total reduction in funding $897,000 over four years.

The commonwealth government has provided an additional $350,000 per year for four years from 2015-16 to the Women’s Legal Centre for a new family violence service, but this additional finding does not compensate for the drop in core funding. The federal government has spent the last few years raising awareness about domestic and family violence—that it is not an acceptable form of behaviour; that it is against the law—but the numbers of reports have skyrocketed, and now they are pulling funding from services that support our most vulnerable.

From our perspective, the ACT government funds a number of important services in the ACT legal assistance sector, including Legal Aid ACT, the Women’s Legal Centre and Canberra Community Law. The ACT government is also one of few state or territory governments to supplement commonwealth funding to the Aboriginal Legal Service and the only one to provide recurrent funding.

The government, through the parliamentary agreement, has committed to continue existing funding for community legal services, consider whether further funding is required and fund the EDO for at least two years from November 2016. This will be progressed through normal budget processes. The government will continue to manage the service planning process in a way that will support and improve service delivery.

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