Shadow AG joins calls in Bendigo to secure family violence funding

Funding for vital family violence services will be top of the agenda when Shadow Attorney-General, Mark Dreyfus QC MP, joins Lisa Chesters MP and Chris Sedgman, Acting Executive Officer of the Loddon Campaspe Community Legal Centre for a tour of the Magistrates’ Courts in Bendigo today.

“It’s great to welcome our Shadow Attorney-General, Mark Dreyfus, back to Bendigo. Mark is a fierce advocate for community legal services, particularly in the regions. 

“Here in Bendigo the Loddon Campaspe Community Legal Centre (LCCLC) provides vital services to some of the most vulnerable people in our community. Yet, like community legal centres across Australia, the LCCLC has no funding certainty beyond 2017. 

“The uncertainty created by the Abbott Government’s dishonest and incompetent approach to legal assistance services has already forced the LCCLC to lose staff and reduce services. 

“At a time when we are having a national conversation about family violence, it is outrageous the Abbott Government would cut funding to CLCs and leave the vulnerable women and children who desperately need their services high and dry,” said Lisa Chesters, Federal Member for Bendigo. 

The LCCLC in Bendigo has been leading the way in its response to family violence with research and advocacy programs including the Will Somebody Listen to Me report, which looks at how to address gaps in the justice system for victims of family violence. Chris Sedgman said she was very concerned about likely restrictions in the future on the use of Commonwealth funding for policy, advocacy and law reform work done by CLCs. 

“The early intervention and prevention work that CLCs do is crucial in addressing systemic issues and, as the Productivity Commission highlighted, is highly cost effective. 

“If Tony Abbott is serious about being the Minister for Women, he needs to seriously consider the impact of funding cuts on this work and frontline services, and the ability of vulnerable women and children to get the legal assistance they need, which may ultimately cost lives,” said Ms Sedgman. 

“I call on this Abbott Government to commit funding to community legal centres so they can continue to provide life-saving services as well as vital policy, advocacy and law reform work. 

“This is about access to justice, and looking after the most vulnerable in our community,” said Ms Chesters.