A COMMUNITY legal group that provides advice to some of Bendigo's most disadvantaged people fears the federal government will cut its funding.
Arc Justice chief executive Peter Noble is worried about the future of two "critical" programs run through the Loddon Campaspe Community Legal Centre, in Bendigo.
Mr Noble said funding for both programs was due to end in July and the government hadn't committed to continuing them.
"(The government) has foreshadowed there will probably be further cuts," he said. "All bets are off. We just don't know."
Mr Noble's fears are based on the federal government's plans to cut $43 million from community legal centres over four years, a policy introduced in December 2013.
Another Arc Justice centre, the Gouburn Valley Community Legal Centre, will have $100,000 slashed from this year's budget.
The Bendigo programs in question consist of a service for separating couples and an education program providing law students with experience in family law.
Mr Noble said both were vital programs.
"Free legal services available for separating parents is greatly decreasing," he said.
"We think assistance for separating families is absolutely critical and one of the key areas of federal responsibilities because family law is a federal jurisdiction," he said.
"Vulnerable families don't have access to private information."
The program for separating couples costs $59,000 per year and the education program costs $48,000.
As for the education program, Mr Noble said most of the students who completed it were were studying La Trobe University, Bendigo.
He said it offered them a terrific insight into family law practices and many went on to work in the local sector.
“It’s a fantastic opportunity for rural and regional students to get a rural perspective of practising law.”
Former student Robert Southgate, who participated in the program, said it provided him with a terrific insight into family law.
“It was the first time I had an opportunity to assist disadvantaged people in my community," he said.
"It was an empowering experience and helped me determine where I wanted to go."
Mr Noble said the centre wouldn't find out if funding for the programs would continue until the May Budget.