Comments from the South Australian legal community this week about ‘chronic underfunding’ of legal aid affirm the need for proper funding of Legal Aid at both a federal and state level, Greens spokesperson for Legal Affairs, Senator Penny Wright, said.
The Commissioner for Victims of Crime and a prominent civil liberties lawyer said today that legal aid in South Australia is ‘chronically underfunded’ and that this ‘may give rise to injustices’.
Senator Wright said that “Legal aid commissions and community legal centres around the nation are operating under increasingly strained circumstances due to underfunding and within a system that has been described by community lawyers as reaching a crisis point.
“These services are crucial to filling the gap in the provision of legal services for the most disadvantaged and marginalised in our community—those who need but cannot afford access to private legal services.
“We need to recognise and value the important work of legal assistance services, such as legal aid commissions and community legal centres, by properly funding them. We know that for every dollar spent on legal services such as community legal centres, governments save $100 in related spending further down the track.
“Unsolved legal problems also lead to social costs like relationship breakdowns, financial losses, poor physical and mental health and lost time at work.
“Access to justice is the cornerstone of a fair society and the role of legal assistance services is crucial in ensuring that people can uphold their rights based on the merit of their claim and not the size of their wallet. They must be funded adequately to make this a reality.”