North coast National Party MPs have been called on to ensure the survival of Murwillumbah Community Legal Service following a major budgets cut to its parent, the Lismore-based Northern Rivers Community Legal Centre.
The centre’s annual budget is set to be cut by $180,000.
Newly-appointed NSW Greens MLC, Dawn Walker, says it was ‘alarming’ that the Murwillumbah’s service could be closed as a result, especially as it’s the only service of its kind in Tweed shire.
Ms Walker says the community legal centres play a vital role in providing free legal services to vulnerable people, ‘including women and children experiencing family violence, people with disability and people experiencing elder abuse who typically can’t get legal assistance anywhere else’.
‘Concerns that the Murwillumbah Community Legal Service and their outreach services to Tweed Heads and Pottsville are facing a drastic reduction or even closure after massive cuts to their funding by the LNP Government is alarming, especially given that it’s the only service of its kind in Tweed Shire’. Ms Walker said.
She said the cuts were ‘just the latest example of the Liberal-National Party’s ongoing war on Murwillumbah, following the slated sale of Murwillumbah TAFE, closure of the Tweed Valley Women’s Service and the near closure of Murwillumbah Birthing Centre’.
‘The Tasmanian government has already committed to covering the federal funding cuts to community legal centres at least over 2017/18. The NSW government should do the same as a bare minimum.
‘It’s time that the north coast Nationals, specifically Thomas George (Member for Lismore) and Benjamin Franklin (parliamentary secretary for Northern NSW) stood up for people on the north coast and ensured the state government covered these looming cuts to Community Legal Centres so local residents can access the basic legal services they need.
‘The cuts to the Northern Rivers Community Legal Centre are part of a 30 per cent cut to Community Legal Centres Australia-wide that are due to take effect from July 1, 2017’, she said.
A public meeting is being held over the cuts to the service on Wednesday, April 5, at 5.30pm at the Court House Hotel, Murwillumbah.
Echonetdaily has sought comment from Mr George and Mr Franklin.
The Nationals’ Tweed MP Geoff Provest has voiced concern at the cuts and is meeting with the legal service this afternoon to see how he can help.
A spokesperson for Mr Provest said the funding cuts may affect the outreach services and thus had already expressed his concerns to the NSW Attorney General.