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Local nest egg for community law centre

Tairawhiti Community Law Centre (TCLC) has been providing access to justice for people who cannot afford it since 2000.

Community law centres are funded by the Ministry of Justice to provide access to justice and free community legal services. For nine years up until early 2018 there was no increase in government funding, while costs continued to rise.

As their financial situation became increasingly difficult TCLC had to make tough decisions, including suspending some outreach programmes up the coast, their goal is to provide regular ongoing services to the East Coast.

Ruther Quilter, TCLC Chairperson, says “things were very tough, so much so that some feared the closure of the centre.”

“As funding restraints became critical we were forced to consider alternative funding avenues. The board saw a fund at The Sunrise Foundation as a way to assist with our fundraising efforts and help secure long term financial sustainability for the vital community service."

Although a long overdue increase of government funding for community law centres was announced in early 2018, the board remain committed to growing their endowment fund as a way of having some form of sustainable funding that is not reliant on government funding.

Ruth added that “the increase in funding was a welcome respite from the ongoing challenge of finding enough funding to keep the doors open. But we know from experience that governments and funding come and go, the board hopes our fund will help to give financial security to the centre in the long run.”

The increase in funding has allowed them to address some operational shortfalls and they can now work on growing their services. A senior supervising lawyer was recently commissioned to provide Notary Public services, this is a unique service not available anywhere else in Tairāwhiti-Gisborne.

Gillian Creach, TCLC General Manager, a regular donor to the TCLC fund, likes that she is helping to build “a local nest egg and valuable resource for the community.”

Gillian donates a small amount every week through workplace giving. Every pay day $15 is automatically deducted from her wages and sent to Sunrise. Because $5 of that is an automatic tax rebate, she is only actually out of pocket $10 per week.

Gillian says she does it because she sees it as a valuable thing to do and likes that her little drops help make the bucketful bigger. “My workplace giving is only the cost of a couple of coffees a week, but it has added up, I’ve donated nearly $1500 over the past three years.”

Gillian is one of four people donating to the TCLC fund regularly through workplace giving. Along with several small donations from TCLC Trust their regular donations have seen the fund grow to nearly $8,500, which shows that giving a small amount regularly really does make a difference.

Ruth added that perpetuity and accountability were key factors in the Board’s decision to establish the fund.

“Endowments are invested for the long term in managed funds and Sunrise only retains 1% each year to cover administrative costs. We don’t have to be concerned with how much of our fund is being syphoned off for other things, it is really transparent.”

All donations to the Tairawhiti Community Law Centre Endowment Fund are invested, protected and grown to keep up with inflation. The surplus investment income will be returned to the centre each and every year forever.

© Scoop Media

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