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Changes to legal centre funding to hurt State’s most vulnerable

Cutting funding to centres for law reform work

Kim Stephens writes in the Brisbane Times (4.12.14) that ‘proposed sweeping changes to Queensland’s justice laws will adversely impact some of the state’s most vulnerable citizens, according to a community legal advocate. Attorney-General Jarrod Bleijie unveiled the raft of changes to the Justice and Other Legislation Bill in Parliament last week, touting red tape reduction, public sector renewal, and the strengthening of penalties and sentences for criminals as highlights. But Queensland Association of Independent Legal Services director James Farrell said one of the changes, to clause 80, would cut the funding that allowed community legal centres to engage in vital law reform work. He said in the past the work had resulted in substantial change to family protections laws, the Coroner’s Act and the Residential Tenancies Act, in turn protecting some of Queensland’s most marginalised groups. “It’s really only on close examination of the bill it becomes clear what is being sought to be achieved,” he said. “The bill itself is silent on the chilling impacts on law reform activities by community legal centres. It’s really only after you look at it a level of depth it becomes clear. “Being prevented from using funding for law reform activities will mean more people have legal problems but without the additional funding, less people will get legal help. “The impact is going to be more unfair laws that impact on marginalised and disadvantaged people who won’t be able to get the legal help they need.”‘

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