Labor announces Aboriginal legal services funding

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The Law Council of Australia has commended an announcement by the Federal Labor Party that it would pump $20.4m in Aboriginal legal services over three years if elected.

The announcement follows Labor’s earlier pledge to commit $43m to Community Legal Centres.

Shadow attorney-general Mark Dreyfus has announced that $18.2m would go to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services members and $2.2m to the peak representative body, the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services.

“The Law Council has strongly opposed cuts to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services and it would only be responsible for whichever party forms government in July to rectify this promptly,” said Law Council president Stuart Clark AM.

Last week, the Law Council of Australia launched a Federal Election Policy Platform, setting out the priorities for improvement of the legal sector for the incoming government. 

First on the list is ending the legal aid funding crisis, followed by addressing the shortage of legal professionals in rural, regional and remote communities and court funding.  While the Law Council has welcomed Labor’s commitment to legal aid funding, Clark said there is still a long way to go.

“Fixing Australia’s legal aid crisis will require a whole of sector approach that extends well beyond what either of the major parties have committed to thus far,” Clark said.

The Law Council has spearheaded the Legal Aid Matters campaign in the lead up to the July election, which Clark said has generated major public interest.  He said Australians have been shocked at the state of the funding crisis.

“Eighty-one per cent of Australians believe legal aid should be there in times of need for those who cannot afford a lawyer,” he said.

“That vision of how Australia should be is nowhere near close to being a reality today.”