Legal aid for victims of child sex abuse
Community legal centres will receive Federal Government funding to assist those who want to tell their stories to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, which began in Melbourne today (3 April).
Funding will be channelled through the Royal Commission’s Legal Advisory Service. The service will have a main office in Sydney and staff in different regions to meet victims’ needs and reflect the timing of the Commission’s inquiry process.
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The National Association of Community Legal Centres (NACLC) has welcomed the move, claiming specialist legal support for victims is critical.
“People need a strong and skilled legal advice service independent of the Royal Commission’s own legal team in order to feel safe to tell their stories,” said NACLC board chair, Michael Smith.
“It is essential that victims understand the actual or potential legal issues that may affect them so they can make informed choices about providing information to or engaging with the Royal Commission, as well as whether they can pursue any other legal avenues of recourse.”
NACLC said it lobbied the Federal Government for an advisory and support service resourced by experienced and skilled lawyers, counsellors and support workers. It specifically sought specialist lawyers who are trained and experienced in providing services to children, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, and individuals from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds.
NACLC will immediately consult with Community Legal Centres, including the Pro Bono Legal Clearing Houses, State and Territory Legal Aid Commissions, the Family Violence Prevention Legal Services, the Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Legal Services and the private profession in order to identify and draw together a national team of suitable staff.