THE NATIONAL Pro Bono Resource Centre’s future has been assured for the next four years after the Federal Government announced in the Budget it would provide a further $1 million until the end of the 2008-09 financial year.
The extension of the Government’s funding commitment came after about a year of lobbying by the Centre, which was founded with seed funding of $1 million over four years in August 2002, with the expectation it would eventually be fully supported by the private sector.
The Government’s decision follows the recommendation by a Senate inquiry last year that the Government provide additional funding past the end of this financial year to improve the provision of pro bono legal services.
National Pro Bono Resource Centre director John Corker said he was “delighted by the Government’s approach to this issue”. He said the expectation that the Centre would be supported wholly by private funds was the Government’s stated view under the previous Attorney-General.
Federal Attorney-General Philip Ruddock said the Centre has been very active in promoting pro bono work and providing resources and information to legal practitioners wishing to undertake it. “It has also actively promoted pro bono work in law schools, fostering a pro bono culture amongst future legal practitioners,” he said.
John North, president of the Law Council Of Australia and a founding director of the Pro Bono Centre, said the funding will ensure it continues to deliver vital legal services. “Pro bono is an unsung and yet very important part of the legal profession’s commitment to access to justice. However, it must run hand-in-hand with properly funded legal aid and community legal centres.”