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Budget delivers on access to justice promise

Budget delivers on access to justice promise

Budget 2009 provides $17.1 million in operating funding in 2009/10 to maintain essential access to justice services for those unable to afford their own legal advice and representation.

The funding is needed to ensure the immediate future of legal aid and community law centres while a fundamental review of the legal aid system is under way, Justice Minister Simon Power says.
“By guaranteeing equality before the law and natural justice for everyone, the Government upholds public confidence in the legitimacy and effectiveness of the justice system.”

Community law centres faced a significant drop in funding which is sourced mostly from interest earned on solicitors’ nominated trust accounts and is declining due to a slowing housing market and lower interest rates. The $7.2 million top-up for community law centres in 2009/10 will enable the existing level of services to be maintained.

“As well as this one-year interim measure, the Government is committed over the medium term to find an enduring funding framework to ensure continuity of the services provided by community law centres.

“It’s important the community law centres do not find themselves in this predicament again in a year’s time,” Mr Power says.

The Legal Services Agency will receive $9.9 million in 2009/10 to help retain its legal aid providers who provide legal advice to people charged with offences.
Both initiatives provide interim funding pending the outcome of a comprehensive review of legal aid announced by the Government in April.

The purpose of the review, chaired by Dame Margaret Bazley, is to consider how the
system can best be structured so it delivers effective legal services to those who most need them, in a way that is cost-effective and sustainable.

ENDS

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