The Federal Government’s plan to cut 30 per cent of funding to community legal centres will see a ripple effect across Fairfield, Liverpool and Bankstown, says South West Sydney Legal Centre principal solicitor Peter Multari.
The proposed cut was announced in the 2016 Federal Budget, and will come into effect on July 1, 2017.
“For us that would mean losing minimum two solicitors,” Mr Multari said.
South West Sydney Legal Centre has five solicitors working full time, providing legal advice and services to members of the community who may not qualify for Legal Aid, but cannot afford private legal advice.
Based in Liverpool, the centre has been operating for 30 years across Fairfield, Liverpool and Bankstown.
Mr Multari said the centre’s clients are “the most vulnerable”, unable to protect themselves from abuse of their legal rights without SWSLC’s support.
“We’re already turning away in excess of 1300 people a year, so it’s going to be at least another thousand people we’ll be turning away,” he said.
We’re already turning away in excess of 1300 people a year.South West Sydney Legal Centre principal solicitor Peter Multari
Mr Multari said that the funding cut was a short-sighted decision by the Federal Government that would have repercussions on society, forcing more people who could not access legal support to go through expensive court processes.
He said the cuts would see more people wind up in jail that should not be there, and put pressure on other social services.
“There’s repercussions for the government in the health system, for public housing, on the court system,” he said.
Unable to access the centre’s free legal advice, community members across Fairfield, Liverpool and Bankstown will find themselves increasingly powerless to protect their rights and resolve issues quickly.
Fowler MP Chris Hayes said that the funding cut was “very concerning.”
“Regrettably, a significant component of the Centre involves helping women who are victims of family and domestic violence,” Mr Hayes said.
“For many people of migrant backgrounds and given various cultural barriers, this is a very sensitive issue and requires a dedicated and professional approach.
“It is distressing to know that members of the community will be turned away when they are reaching out for help, when help is most needed.”