Darren Lewin-Hill comments in The Guardian (24.4.17) on the federal government’s reversal of plans for further cuts to free legal assistance for vulnerable people. The author argues that the restored funding announced by Attorney-General George Brandis doesn’t change the ‘devastation’ already wrought upon the community legal sector.
‘After a long but wavering campaign by a beleaguered community legal sector, attorney general George Brandis has announced that deep cuts to community legal centres that were set for July will now no longer proceed. Instead, $56m will be injected into free legal assistance services as part of the looming May federal budget.
‘At first glance, it appears that the community legal sector campaign has finally paid off, and it’s indeed understandable why the sector has welcomed the announcement.
‘With cuts first unleashed in December 2013, it has been a long road, with the federal government ignoring multiple opportunities to restore and boost funding to free legal help, including for women fighting to escape family violence, but also for people facing eviction into homelessness, those seeking redress for false “robo-debts”, employees mistreated and ripped off at work, and many others across a broad range of often hidden vulnerability.
‘But the impulse to welcome and congratulate the federal government risks absolving Brandis of the needless devastation he has already wrought upon free legal assistance for vulnerable people, and will inflict on the many thousands who will continue to be turned away when the reversal of cuts gives way to the grim reality that funding will remain massively inadequate to meet clear and increasing legal need.’