Community legal services across the north coast will cease providing vital support services in July following savage budget cuts from the federal government.
Almost 40 other community legal centres across the state face the same fate unless the government reverses or radically reduces the severity of its cuts in the coming May budget.
The groups held a crisis meeting on Tuesday to thrash out plans to resist the cuts, which would see the state’s most vulnerable people left without any legal representation at often the most critical juncture in their lives.
‘The cuts at Northern Rivers Community Legal Centre (NRCLC) will see hundreds of people miss out on free legal advice. These people have already reached crisis point. Many of them are Aboriginal, have disabilities, and are women and children escaping domestic violence,’ said NRCLC manager Angela Pollard.
She said the NRCLC alone had been told it would lose $200,000 as a result of the cuts
‘This will force it to stop providing free legal advice in Casino and to patients in Tweed Hospital.
‘We will also lose a solicitor giving free legal advice in Ballina, Byron Bay, Lismore and Kyogle,’ she said.
Nassim Arrage, chairperson of Community Legal Centres NSW, said Tuesday’s meeting concluded that the only way to ensure that Community Legal Centres across New South Wales do not have to close their doors on July 1 is for the federal government to reverse their funding cuts.
‘If Community Legal Centres across New South Wales are forced to close from July 1, tens of thousands of disadvantaged Australians will miss out on receiving free legal advice,’ said Mr Arrage.
‘Community Legal Centres in New South Wales are already having to stop providing services and experienced lawyers are leaving the community legal sector,’ he added.