Federal Budget response: 2022-2023

Disappointing budget for the community legal sector that does little to improve access to justice

Community Legal Centres Australia believes that everyone is entitled to justice, regardless of how much money they have.  

The community legal sector is grossly underfunded, and we are disappointed that the budget does not include much needed funding to allow the sector to deliver services to those in need in our communities. 

We know that around 80 people a week are turned away from community legal centres in each electorate. This budget does not contain a commitment or vision to improve access to justice in this country and only delivers temporary fixes, when we need long term solutions to the persistent problems of inequality and injustice. 

Whilst we do welcome the following funding announcements, more clarity is needed around how this funding will be allocated before we can speak definitively about the impacts it may have: 

  • $2.5 million over two years to support the Financial Rights Legal Centre’s National Insurance Law Service 

  • A $25 million package which includes financial counselling services on the ground in flood affected areas NSW and QLD in addition to the $5.4 million previously announced in March 2022 for legal assistance for flood victims in NSW and Queensland – although it is not specified how this funding will be allocated. 

  • $8.4 million over three years for a pilot of a new service delivery model to provide survivors of sexual assault with greater access to dedicated legal services – although it is not specified how this funding will be allocated.  

  • A $10.5 million package over four years that includes funding for supporting financial counsellors – although again it is not clear how this will be allocated 

We are disappointed that the Budget fails to deliver:  

  • An additional $80 million core funding for community legal centres to be able to address unmet need 

  • $1.5 million every four years for a national legal needs assessment to facilitate evidence-based planning and efficient allocation of resources

  • $20 million per year for legal assistance in disaster prevention as well as recovery 

  • $25 million per year funding for wraparound support through an integrated services model

  • The desperately needed additional funding for Aboriginal legal and family violence prevention services; in fact, it delivers a cut in real terms to these frontline services. 

Investing in community legal services not only improves the lives of those requiring legal help but provides significant cost savings to the economy through the positive flow on effects to wider society and ultimately, downstream cost savings for the federal government.  

Community Legal Centres Australia encourages all political parties to set out their vision for addressing unmet legal need across Australia and to set out their plans for how they will support the community legal sector before the federal election in May 2022.  

*Update 10/3/22* 

The Federal Government has announced $5.4 million funding for legal assistance providers in Queensland and NSW to ‘boost existing legal assistance services operating within affected communities’. We have requested further details about how this funding will be distributed and will update this page as we receive this information.