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Victorian lawyers call on govt to step up on legal aid
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Victorian lawyers call on govt to step up on legal aid

Victorian lawyers have demanded the Federal Government match the state's injection of nearly $50 million for legal aid over two years._x000D_

VICTORIAN lawyers have called on the Federal Government to match the state’s injection of nearly $50 million for legal aid over two years.

The peak body representing the state’s profession said next week’s Federal Budget should be used to ease the impact of 10 years of budget drops in legal aid.

Law Institute of Victoria president Steven Stevens said that while the additional funding to Victoria Legal Aid is critical, it should be used to increase the provision of legal advice and grants of legal aid to members of the community who are currently denied access to quality legal aid services.

“Victoria receives the lowest per capita funding from the Federal Government of any State,” Stevens said.

“This has resulted in recent years, amongst other things, in a decrease in the independent representation of children in family court disputes, putting the interests of children at greater risk.”

The legal professional body said the Federal and State Governments should renegotiate a new national partnerships agreement on legal aid.

“Victorian women and children will continue to miss out on access to legal services if the Commonwealth Budget does not provide more assistance to vulnerable families,” Stevens said.

He said the LIV welcomed the additional $11.2 million over four years to fund the Children's Court new mediation pilot in child protection cases, as well as the additional appointments of judges to the County Court, Supreme Court and one Court of Appeal judge and two Magistrates including one for the Children's Court.

“The Government has recognised that there have been serious delays in the Courts, particularly in the County Court,” he said.

Stevens said he hoped the $2 million Legal Services Masterplan would lead to improved resources for our crowded courts.

“The Supreme Court, while a valuable historic building, is bursting at the seams and needs new and improved accommodation.”

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