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Government Federal, Legal

Taking gendered violence seriously means funding services that keep women safe

Community Legal Centres Australia 3 mins read

The national peak body for Australia's 165 community legal services has called on the Federal Government to ensure investment in women's safety includes funding the frontline services that keep women safe and assist them to escape violence.

Community Legal Centres Australia released data from its recent sector survey showing that 78% or four in five community legal services across the country provide domestic and family violence support and/or family law services. Family law matters, including separation arrangements and custody of children, are common barriers to women leaving unsafe situations.

Their analysis has also revealed that an additional $125 million is required in the 2024 Federal Budget to guarantee that services can keep their programs open while a new national funding agreement is negotiated over the next 12 months. Their data shows that community legal services nationally are forced to turn away 1,000 people every day due to a funding shortfall that is driving a workforce shortage of over 2,000 staff nationally.

Family law and family violence services represent the highest proportion of services delivered by community legal centres. Women's legal services provide specialist legal assistance to support women to escape and recover from domestic and family violence, and to advocate for better laws and policies to achieve justice, safety, and gender equality. 

Many community legal services provide free advice and support in areas including sexual harassment, protection orders, child custody, separation arrangements, child protection, social security, tenancy/housing, debt/financial counselling, and financial abuse. 

Quotes attributable to Arlia Fleming, Deputy Chairperson of Community Legal Centres Australia and CEO of Central Tablelands and Blue Mountains Legal Centre

“As a frontline service provider, we specialise in supporting victim-survivors of domestic and family violence. However, our ability to deliver essential services is severely compromised without sufficient funding. This is putting vulnerable individuals and families at risk."

“We already have a consistent 3-week waiting list. Without access to our services, victim-survivors may be forced to remain in unsafe environments. Without early intervention and support, the long-term social and economic costs of domestic and family violence will continue to escalate."

“The Attorney-General has ruled out a federal royal commission into domestic violence because he believes the Government should focus on implementing policies it has already identified. That must include funding the services that provide legal support to women experiencing or at risk of violence."

“Our sector’s capacity to respond to community legal needs has reduced under this Federal Government. As the legal assistance sector moves into the final year of our funding agreement, we need the Federal Government to invest $125 million for 2024-25 to keep centres afloat."

"We also need to see future funding levels locked into the forward estimates to give the sector certainty as we enter a 12-month negotiation around the next national funding agreement. People experiencing violence deserve to feel certain that the services they rely upon will continue to exist after 1 July 2025."

“We implore the Federal Government and all community stakeholders working to keep women safe to recognise the importance of adequate funding for frontline services in our national response. The time to act is now."

"Together, we can ensure that no one in our community is left without the resources and support they need to escape violence and rebuild their lives.”


About us:

Community Legal Centres Australia is the national representative voice for the community legal sector. We are an independent, non-profit organisation set up to support the community legal sector to provide high-quality free and accessible legal and related services to everyday people, especially people experiencing financial hardship, discrimination and/or some other form of disadvantage, or who are experiencing domestic or family violence. See www.clcs.org.au for more information.


Contact details:

Note: Interviews and case studies are available from local community legal centres in metropolitan and regional areas across all states and territories. Community Legal Centres Australia's 2024/25 Federal Budget Submission and 2024 Sector Survey are also available upon request.

Media contact: Daniel Scoullar - 0402 596 297 / daniel@socialchangeprojects.com.au

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