Law Society calls upon Parliamentarians to tackle legal aid crisis
The Law Society of Western Australia has announced its support for the National Legal Assistance Funding Campaign, launched today by the Law Council of Australia to draw attention to the nationwide crisis in legal assistance funding.
Law Society President Elizabeth Needham said, “The current funding crisis is a direct result of successive cuts to legal assistance funding over a number of years by both the Western Australian and Federal Governments.
“The underfunding of legal assistance bodies continues to significantly affect access to justice for the most disadvantaged members of the community. The result is an increasing number of people in the court system who are being denied access to basic legal representation.”
Over the past two years, Legal Aid WA has had to absorb budget cuts of $4.1 million. In the 2015 State Budget, the WA Government included the following measures:
- the non-renewal of funding to the Employment Law Centre; and
- cuts across the board to Community Legal Centre funding.
Over the last 20 years, successive Federal Governments have cut the Commonwealth’s share of legal aid from 50% to just 35%.
The result is that vulnerable individuals (including young people, people with low socio-economic standing and people with disabilities) face well-resourced corporate opponents, abusive former partners, government agencies and well-armed prosecution teams with little or no legal assistance or representation.
Pleas for greater Federal Government funding to legal aid have gone unanswered, despite successive government and publicly funded inquiries recommending substantial increases.
The Law Society calls upon all stakeholders to join forces in demanding that Federal and Western Australian Parliamentarians end the funding neglect in 2016.
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