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Letter sent to Ministers in reference to the critical role that Community Legal Centres and their workers play

01 May 2024 By ASU

Today we have written a letter to Minsters in reference to the critical role that Community Legal Centres and their workers play in preventing and reducing gendered violence.  You can read the letter we sent below.


TO:  The Hon Dr Jim Chalmers MP, Treasurer

Senator the Hon Katy Gallagher, Minister for Finance, Minister for Women

Hon Mark Dreyfus KC, MP, Attorney-General, Cabinet Secretary

Dear Ministers,

I write in relation to the Government’s commitment to take on the crisis of violence against Australian women, and the critical role Community Legal Centres and their workers play in preventing and reducing gendered violence.

Funding frontline services must be at the heart of any national effort to reduce gendered violence and keep women safe. No woman experiencing violence or at risk of violence should be unable to get the legal advice and support they need to be safe and rebuild their lives due to funding gaps.

Women cannot make informed decisions or act on their legal rights without advice, support and representation.

You would be aware that more than three quarters of Australian community legal centres provide domestic and family violence and/or family law services to women. These community legal centres are the final safety net for women who cannot afford private lawyers and who are not eligible for legal aid. Yet, more than a thousand people are turned away every day from community legal centres without being provided support due to funding constraints.

Further, there is a workforce shortage crisis in the sector. This is a time where we need to attract and retain the very best frontline workers in community legal centres to deliver the very best advice and support to people who need it. In order to do that community legal centres need to be able to employ workers in secure employment, with decent pay and conditions that can keep up with the cost of living. Unfortunately, funding constraints are seeing workers choosing to leave the sector and work in similar roles at employers such as legal aid, just to enable them to make ends meet. Workers continue to work unacceptably high levels of unpaid overtime, with limited access to adequate support and supervision. ASU members working in First Nations Legal Services in particular have reported significant staff shortages particularly in regional and remote areas.

Workers in the sector are struggling and need urgent Government action to be able to support the people in their community that need it.

We eagerly await the public release of the review of the National Legal Partnership Agreement and look forward to working with Government to strengthen the community legal sector and invest in the community legal centre workforce. However, we need urgent action to provide community legal centres, their workers, and the communities that they support some certainty and stability now.

We urge the Government to provide emergency additional financial support to community legal centres in the 2024/25 budget, as well as providing some certainty over the forward estimates such that the next 12 months are not spent with the uncertainty of a major funding cliff.

Workers in community legal centres give women the information and advice they need to understand their situations, support to respond to violence/potential violence, and assistance in making choices and taking action to escape from violent situations and perpetrators while remaining safe, protecting their children and managing legal and financial issues relating to separation and family violence. We look forward to you supporting this important work, and working to ensure that nobody who needs support is turned away.

Yours sincerely

Emeline Gaske

Assistant National Secretary

Contact Details
Name: National Office