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Legal Aid NSW, the Aboriginal Legal Service NSW/ACT, the Women’s Legal Service NSW, and the Australian Centre for Disability Law are among 14 organisations that have been named to share in a $52 million funding boost over four years from the Commonwealth Government.

The investment is part of the record $95 million funding promised to the legal assistance sector across Australia in last year’s Federal Budget, which had not been allocated for specific distribution among the states and community legal centres until now.

“The good news is, the funds have been allocated and can start to flow to centres in need,” Community Legal Centres NSW (CLCNSW) Executive Director Tim Leach told LSJ. He said he predicted the money to start hitting centre bank accounts within the month.

“All legal assistance providers in NSW do a fantastic job and they’re all under-resourced, so all funding is very welcome, and we welcome this funding injection to the sector in NSW.”

NSW Attorney General Mark Speakman said the 14 organisations selected to receive funding underwent a “rigorous panel assessment”. Those organisations had to show how they would use the funds to improve legal assistance for groups including domestic and family violence victim-survivors, people with mental health issues and workers who have experienced sexual harassment and discrimination.

“This funding will help ensure people who are doing it tough have access to legal support when they need it,” Speakman said.

“The dedicated lawyers and staff or our legal assistance sector provide an invaluable contribution by delivering much needed help to disadvantaged communities where many people are feeling the impact of COVID-19.”

Leach said the funding injection was timely, as many community legal centres were still reeling from the jump in demand for legal assistance during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We’ve noticed significant increases in demand for assistance from women experiencing domestic and family violence, but also increases in requests for assistance from people with disabilities. COVID has generated significant increases in demand for free legal assistance,” he said.

Leach also noted the community legal centres that had been named to receive funding would appreciate the additional resources, but not all had received the amounts they sought and centres that missed out altogether would be disappointed.

“We’re always looking for more funding in the CLC sector, there is vast unmet legal need in NSW. That need will remain after this funding injection.

“All providers will welcome additional resources where they can be provided. All this money will be well used for people in desperate need of assistance.”

The centres named to receive funding are:

  • Western NSW Community Legal Centre;
  • Employment Rights Legal Service;
  • Kingsford Legal Centre;
  • Women’s Legal Service NSW;
  • Central Coast Community Legal Centre;
  • Australian Centre for Disability Law;
  • Hume Riverina Community Legal Service;
  • Redfern Legal Centre;
  • Mid North Coast Legal Centre;
  • Wirringa Baiya Aboriginal Women’s Legal Centre;
  • Northern Rivers Community Legal Centre;
  • Financial Rights Legal Centre;
  • Legal Aid NSW; and
  • Aboriginal Legal Service NSW/ACT.