The Australian Greens have called on the Government to conduct a comprehensive investigation into legal assistance services to identify and respond to unmet need and gaps in service delivery.
Australian Greens spokesperson for Legal Affairs, Senator Penny Wright, will move a motion in the Senate today to commemorate the 40th anniversary of Community Legal Centres and highlight the crucial role they play in providing access to justice.
"Community Legal Centres fill an important gap by providing legal services to vulnerable Australians who otherwise would not be able to afford legal assistance. Unfortunately, they remain chronically underfunded and struggle to meet rising demand for their services," Senator Wright said.
"Properly funding Community Legal Centres is common sense, because for every $1 that we spend on Community Legal Centres, governments save $100 in justice system spending further down the track.
"Last month during Budget Estimates, I was disappointed to hear that the current review of the National Partnership Agreement on Legal Assistance Services will not include a comprehensive examination of unmet need and gaps in current service delivery in order to improve the funding situation.
"The Greens are therefore calling on the Government to broadly investigate the levels of supply and demand of legal assistance services and how many people might be missing out because of underfunding of Community Legal Centres, in order to improve the use and funding of services and advance access to justice.
"Access to justice is the cornerstone of a fair society. Community Legal Centres play a vital role in delivering legal assistance to the most disadvantaged in our society - they must be adequately funded to ensure access to justice for all."
Full text of Penny Wright's motion can be found here.