Funding cuts set for legal centres

COMMUNITY legal centres are facing funding cuts under the Federal Government's 2014 budget.

Community legal centres say $6 million has been cut from their budget for 2017/18 with the cuts anticipated to make it harder for Australians most in need, including victims of domestic violence, to get legal advice. 

Peter Noble is the executive officer of the Advocacy & Rights Centre, which operates the  Loddon Campaspe Community Legal Centre.

"The biggest impact for our aid service is really in Shepparton where we operate the Goulburn Valley CLC," Mr Noble said.

"It's due to lose $100,000 from July 1, 2015.

Peter Noble

Peter Noble

"It's basically cutting short by two years the contract that we signed under the Labor Government.

"So it doesn't really affect Bendigo, it's really a Shepparton focus, but we operate that service."

Mr Noble said the proposed cuts were disappointing because a productivity commission review was underway.

"In many senses, the cuts really are premature because they should be waiting for the outcome of that review before deciding when and where to make cost savings," he said.

"We'd like to see some sort of evidence based process go through.

"We think there are compelling reasons for funding it ... There's no doubt it will be a big hit to the bottom line for that program."

The productivity review is focusing on constraining costs and promoting access to justice and equality before the law.

Areas of inquiry include: real costs of legal representation and trends over time; level of demand for legal services; factors that contribute to the cost of legal representation in Australia; whether the costs charged for accessing justice services and for legal representation are generally proportionate to the issues in dispute; the impact of the costs of accessing justice services on the effectiveness of these services; and the economic costs of accessing justice services and legal representation.

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