The Victorian State Government's $50 million commitment to legal aid over the next two years has been welcomed by the Law Institute of Victoria (LIV).
However, the LIV is now calling for the Federal Government to follow suit when the Federal Budget is released next week.
"The additional funding to Victoria Legal Aid is critical, and it must now 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," said LIV President Steven Stevens in a statement.
"We need the Federal Government to step up and make a decent commitment to increased legal aid in its Budget next Tuesday."
The State Government's announcement comes after a consistent campaign by the LIV and other legal bodies to increase funding to relieve persistent access to justice issues. And the LIV said that increased funding is crucial if the police, court, prosecution and defence systems are to function properly.
"Legal aid has taken an increasing Budget hit over the past 10 years, and Victoria receives the lowest per capita funding from the Federal Government of any State," said Stevens.
"This has resulted ... in a decrease in the independent representation of children in family court disputes, putting the interests of children at greater risk."
Stevens added that it is about time that Federal and State Governments negotiated a partnership agreement to ensure the ongoing quality of and access to legal services.
"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," he said.
Stevens said the LIV also welcomes the additional $11.2 million, to be rolled out over four years, to fund a new mediation pilot in child protection cases.
Additional judges appointed to the County Court, Supreme Court and Court of Appeal, as well as two new Magistrates, including one for the Children's Court, have also been applauded by the LIV.
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