The findings of an independent review into community legal centres (CLCs), commissioned by NSW Attorney-General Mark Speakman in September 2017, reveal that underfunding is still at critical levels.
The Cameron Review, named after Alan Cameron AO, who acted independently of his role as Chairperson at the NSW Law Reform Commission in conducting the review, recommended that funding for CLCs should expand to just under $12 million per year. This would include an additional $3 million per annum announced by the NSW Government in April 2017. The report said additional funding of $15.6 million was needed over four years to implement the recommendations of the review, and it recommended that the NSW Government shift to a minimum three-year funding cycle to increase stability and confidence for CLCs.
The Director of Kingsford Legal Centre (KLC), Associate Professor Anna Cody, welcomed the release of the Cameron Review and the NSW Government’s response to it.
“The report emphasises the critical importance of community legal centres like KLC in helping people and communities with their everyday problems,” said Cody. “Without quality early legal assistance in the sorts of problems our clients have, issues can quickly escalate and result in serious financial, social and health impacts,” Cody described Kingsford Legal Centre as “already stretched well beyond capacity” and said the additional funding could help lawyers to help vulnerable plaintiffs with employment and discrimination cases, particularly women who had been sexually harassed at work.
The Cameron Review also noted that extra funding was urgently needed to address “significant gaps” in CLC services. These gaps included in regional and rural areas where no or very few legal assistance services operated, in areas of law where there was significant unmet demand, and to help service under-serviced clients including Indigenous Australians, children and young people, and people with disabilities.