Hunter Community Legal Centre (HCLC) could be forced to turn away hundreds of local residents from July 1 thanks to the Turnbull Government’s harsh cuts to community legal centres across the country.
Community Legal Centres help hundreds of thousands of people around Australia in need of free legal assistance who do not qualify for legal aid. They are on the frontline in the battle against domestic violence and assist people with problems as diverse as Centrelink debt, tenancy disputes and employment issues.
Hunter Community Legal Centre and its dedicated staff has been helping our local community for 26 years. Any loss of funding will seriously jeopardise its capacity to serve our communities.
In addition to the Centre’s base in Newcastle and local court services, the Hunter Community Legal Centre holds a range of face to face outreach clinics throughout the region including regular visits in Muswellbrook, Cessnock, Toronto, Port Stephens and Raymond Terrace.
In the last financial year, Hunter Community Legal Centre provided 4331 people with legal advice, court representation or other legal assistance.
However, 1343 people were turned away, the main reason being a lack of resources.
Cuts to Hunter Community Legal Centre’s funding also means it will be forced to find ways to reduce operating expenses and may result in HCLC reducing travel to outreach advice clinics, court work and community legal education. This negatively affects those in need of legal assistance throughout the Newcastle and Hunter region.
Hunter Community Legal Centre provides a vital service to disadvantaged people in our community based on the important value of equal access to justice. It’s fair to say the Government’s proposed funding cuts will be detrimental to the centre’s operation and will equate to more people in desperate need of help being turned away.
When in Government, Labor delivered Community Legal Centres a funding injection worth more than $70 million over four years. Now George Brandis is taking that funding away and trying to blame Labor.
This is an Attorney-General so incompetent, and so out of touch, that he has barely been able to bring himself to visit more than a handful of Community Legal Centres.
Labor calls on the Government to reverse these cruel cuts as a matter of urgency. Vulnerable people in the Hunter are at risk, and we will continue to advocate on behalf of our community and the Hunter Community Legal Centre.