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Additional $15.6m funding boost to increase NSW legal aid capacity

Domestic violence victim-survivors, Aboriginal Australians and people who’ve lost their jobs and homes as a result of COVID-19 will be among those to benefit from a funding boost of more than $15.6 million for NSW’s legal assistance sector.

user iconTony Zhang 15 July 2020 Big Law
Additional $15.6m funding boost to increase NSW legal aid capacity
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Attorney-General and Minister for the Prevention of Domestic Violence Mark Speakman said $13.26 million of the funding would support frontline legal services helping disadvantaged people manage the “new normal” of the coronavirus pandemic.

In addition, a total of $2.35 million has been allocated to help legal assistance services transition to greater virtual service delivery.

“As people face job losses, tenancy issues, financial insecurity and, horrifically, the increasing risk of violence behind closed doors, there are more people than ever contacting Legal Aid, [community legal centres] and the Aboriginal Legal Service in search of legal support,” Mr Speakman said.

 
 

Domestic violence has seen spikes in recent COVID-19, being a central issue for recent legal advocates for reform.

Lawyers Weekly understands the domestic violence unit at Legal Aid NSW has taken more calls for help in the past four months than it typically receives in a year, with an unprecedented 1,600 people ringing in since 4 March, compared to an annual average of 1,000.

Mr Speakman said this investment will help meet this increase in need, and “ensure vulnerable members of our community know their rights and get the advice they need to help overcome hardships”.

Of the $15.6 million, Legal Aid NSW will receive $5.24 million to hire more staff and respond to the increase in demand for services including in family law, domestic and family violence and child protection services. 

It will also receive $1.26 million to support technological improvements.

Community legal centres will receive $4.34 million to increase frontline service delivery capacity across the CLC sector, and more than $1.09 million to support ICT enhancements in the CLC sector.

Meanwhile, Aboriginal Legal Service will receive $3.68 million to bolster the capacity of the ALS to deliver services including family and criminal law and child protection to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in NSW. 

ALS will also receive ICT funding directly from the Commonwealth government.

While restrictions have since been eased in many areas, the state is facing the spectre of a second round of restrictions as it eyes a sharp rise in COVID-19 infections across the border in Victoria.

Mr Speakman said everyone has a part to play in tackling this.

“This funding will help victim-survivors get the advice they need to ensure perpetrators are held to account, support them in escaping violent households and ultimately help us save lives,” he said.  

Voting is now open for The Lawyers Weekly Award, to be presented to one individual for making substantial, consequential achievements in advancing the Australian legal profession since 2000.

Finalists for this prestigious award have been confirmed as those listed below. To vote for your preferred winner, click here. 

Julian Burnside AO QC (barrister)

Bernard Collaery (barrister, former Attorney-General of the ACT)

Kate Eastman SC (barrister and co-founder, Australian Lawyers for Human Rights)

The Honourable Robert French AC (former chief justice, High Court of Australia)

Sue Kench (global chief executive, King & Wood Mallesons)

The Honourable Chief Justice Susan Kiefel AC (chief justice, High Court of Australia)

The Honourable Michael Kirby AC CMG (former justice, High Court of Australia)

Jane Needham SC (barrister and former president, NSW Bar Association)

Geoffrey Robertson AO QC (barrister)

Professor Gillian Triggs (assistant secretary-general, United Nations and former president, Australian Human Rights Commission)