By -

Increases in funding for legal services outlined in the NSW Budget have been welcomed by Brett McGrath, President of the Law Society of NSW.

More than $126 million has been allocated for Legal Aid and a year of funding for the Walama List, the alternative sentencing approach for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander offenders. 

Almost $67 million will go towards youth diversion programs and around $40 million to the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions. 

“In the face of significant budget deficits over the forward estimates, and a slowing economy, the Law Society is pleased the Government has found space to provide much needed funding boosts to key agencies that help deliver the rule of law in our community,” said McGrath. 

He also welcomed already announced funding for up to six extra magistrates and a new judge for the Land and Environment Court. 

There is also an extra $3 million to fund the expansion of the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal. 

McGrath said the Law Society was looking forward to seeing the details of how investments in support services adjacent to the justice system would be allocated. 

“The $224.1 million allocated to reform the out of home care system recognises the desperate need to properly care for children and young people for whom living with family is unsafe,” he said. 

A spokesperson for Legal Aid NSW also welcomed the additional funding announced in the budget, describing it as “an important investment in legal assistance for the people of NSW.”

Specifically, Legal Aid said new funding for the Disaster Response Legal Service would ensure it continues for another year.

“The DRLS provides vital support to people following disaster like floods and fires and has shown itself to be an integral part of disaster response in NSW,” the Legal Aid spokesperson said.

Legal Aid also welcomed extra funding for domestic violence support services and said the budgeted funding would allow it to accommodate changes to bail in domestic violence matters.

However, McGrath expressed concern about the fact that only one year’s funding has been provided for the Walama List in the District Court, a list he described as “critical and effective.” 

“We look forward to more secure, long-term funding being included in future budgets,” he said. 

McGrath also said he was looking forward to seeing the detail of how the funding of diversion programs for children and young people will be allocated. 

Although acknowledging the challenging economic environment of this year’s budget, he said the NSW Government needed to better demonstrate its commitment to the justice system. 

“The Law Society again calls for a court system that keeps pace with community growth, including through appropriate investments in court facilities, including technology enabling more reliable use of Audio-Visual Links and online courts,” said McGrath.