Service welcomes legal funding backflip

COMMUNITY legal centres in Greater Dandenong are celebrating a stunning reversal of hefty funding cuts by the Federal Government last Thursday.
Springvale-Monash Legal Service and Casey-Cardinia Community Legal Service were each bracing for $200,000 in cuts over the next two years until the backflip.
“It’s great news,“ a relieved SMLS executive director Kristen Wallwork said.
“Before they announced it, we’d been doing some future planning and looking at staffing (cuts).“
The service had been relying increasingly on volunteers to prop up its services for 400 clients a month.
In January and February that figure soared by an extra 100.
Under increasing demand, it had already cut its service for unaccompanied humanitarian minors.
A migration lawyer and migration agent were made redundant.
It had also been turning away family violence victims.
Ms Wallwork said the service was still unsure if it would retain its general allocation after May’s budget.
CCCLS principal solicitor Vera Hardiman had the pleasing task of cancelling plans to move out of the service’s Narre Warren office last Thursday.
“We had started pricing equipment ahead of the move,“ she said.
“I had to quickly tell the landlord we’re not going to move out (in June) after all.“
The office is vital for helping the Dandenong-based service’s growing list of Casey and Cardinia clients.
Federal Attorney-General George Brandis said last week that current funding levels were guaranteed for the legal assistance sector for the next two years.