find the latest legal job
Senior Associate - Litigation & Dispute Resolution
Category: Litigation and Dispute Resolution | Location: Melbourne CBD & Inner Suburbs Melbourne VIC
· Come work for a firm ranked in Lawyers Weekly Top 25 Attraction Firms
View details
Associate - Workplace Relations & Safety
Category: Industrial Relations and Employment Law | Location: Brisbane CBD & Inner Suburbs Brisbane QLD
· Employer of choice · Strong team culture
View details
Freelance Lawyers
Category: Banking and Finance Law | Location: All Perth WA
· Freelance opportunities through Vario from Pinsent Masons
View details
Freelance Lawyers
Category: Other | Location: All Adelaide SA
· • Qualified lawyer with a strong academic background
View details
Freelance Lawyers
Category: Other | Location: All Melbourne VIC
· • Qualified lawyer with a strong academic background
View details
Victoria Legal Aid cuts funding to Fitzroy Legal Service

Victoria Legal Aid cuts funding to Fitzroy Legal Service

FITZROY LEGAL Service (FLS) is mounting a campaign to protest against recent Victorian Legal Aid funding cuts that have already jeopardised its case work practice.FLS says the cuts represent 40…

FITZROY LEGAL Service (FLS) is mounting a campaign to protest against recent Victorian Legal Aid funding cuts that have already jeopardised its case work practice.

FLS says the cuts represent 40 per cent of it’s funding from Victoria Legal Aid, and will necessitate cuts in services provided to approximately 400 clients per year. The service is currently the one of the few legal services in Victoria open five nights a week.

The results of the cuts have been felt immediately, says executive officer Robin Inglis: “We have already given redundancy notices to the staff [in the legal practice] who were fully funded or partly funded [by VLA], and it means that our capacity to do case work and represent people is significantly reduced,” he said.

Because the VLA is an independent statutory body, there’s no avenue for the FLS to appeal the decision.

“The only people involved in changing the decision are the board or senior management at Legal Aid, and they’ve not shown much interest in doing that at this stage,” Inglis said.

Fitzroy Legal Services has traditionally had access to two main sources of funding; one has been the Community Legal Program and the other has been the ability to claim for solicitor costs. The funds provided by the VLA for solicitor fees are drawn from the same pool of money accessible to private law firms for legal aid.

The arrangement is a longstanding one, operating for 30 years since 1975. No other community legal centre has the same funding arrangement. It is this unique funding status that lies at the heart of the dispute with the VLA.

One of the rationales offered for the funding cuts is that the funding arrangement is unfair to other Community Legal Centres (CLCs). But this concern about equity has not been raised as a concern by the CLCs themselves. Hugh de Kretser, Executive Officer of the Federation of Community Legal Centres told Lawyers Weekly that members had passed a motion requesting Legal Aid defer the decision to cut funding to the FLS.

Instead, the Federation recommended that Legal Aid review whether all community legal centres should be entitled to solicitor grants. They pointed to the 2007 New South Wales review of legal services funding. The review supported the expansion of the CLC funding model, recommending that more CLCs be able to access solicitor funds.

When asked to comment on the apparent breakdown of the relationship between the CLCs and VLA, Inglis said the strain was a result of long-term funding cuts to community legal services across the sector.

“The difficulty, of course, for Legal Aid is that they have been struggling in terms of funding for a decade now, basically. So I think, because of the limitations that Legal Aid have on them, I don’t think they’ve necessarily been looking at how to work more creatively or more collaboratively with CLCs to the extent that they might have,” he said.

“In the present climate of trying to struggle to get money for Legal Aid, it’s vital, I think, that as far as possible the private profession, Legal Aid and legal centres are [seen to be] working together”

Inglis remains optimistic about the prospect of the decision being overturned, especially given the widespread support from across the community and private legal sector.

“We’ve had a lot of support — we’ve had pro-bono support from Blake Dawson and we’ve had a lot of support from people in the legal profession saying they can’t understand how this has happened. We’ve had people from as far away as Tasmania and Queensland emailing us expressing their concern that something with the track record of the legal service is being dismantled for no rational reason.”

Like this story? Read more:

QLS condemns actions of disgraced lawyer as ‘stain on the profession’

NSW proposes big justice reforms to target risk of reoffending

The legal budget breakdown 2017

Victoria Legal Aid cuts funding to Fitzroy Legal Service
lawyersweekly logo
Promoted content
Recommended by Spike Native Network
more from lawyers weekly
High Court overturns ‘excessive’ anti-protest legislation
Bob Brown’s recent victory in the High Court over the Tasmanian government was a win for fundament...
Changes to Australian citizenship laws blocked
Attempts to beef up the requirements to obtain Australian citizenship were thwarted this week, after...
Lawyers warn against mandatory sentencing measures amid political jeers
Mandatory sentencing has become a topic for politicians on both sides of Federal Parliament to jostl...
Allens managing partner Richard Spurio, image courtesy Allens' website
Jun 21 2017
Promo season at Allens
A group of lawyers at Allens have received promotions across its PNG and Australian offices. ...
May 11 2017
Partner exits for in-house role
A Victorian lawyer has left the partnership of a national firm to start a new gig with state governm...
Esteban Gomez
May 11 2017
National firm recruits ‘major asset’
A national law firm has announced it has appointed a new corporate partner who brings over 15 years'...
Nicole Rich
May 16 2017
Access to justice for young transgender Australians
Reform is looming for the process that young transgender Australians and their families must current...
Geoff Roberson
May 11 2017
The lighter side of the law: when law and comedy collide
On the face of it, there doesn’t seem to be much that is amusing about the law, writes Geoff Rober...
May 10 2017
Advocate’s immunity – without fear or without favour but not both
On 29 March 2017, the High Court handed down its decision in David Kendirjian v Eugene Lepore & ...