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Community legal centres call on politicians for support

Posted October 30, 2018

Future funding for community legal centres, stronger laws to protect and promote Queenslanders’ human rights and rental reforms will be on the agenda today when community lawyers meet with close to 50 state politicians.

Community Legal Centres Queensland Director James Farrell said community legal centre representatives from across Queensland will discuss the sector’s needs with their State representatives.

“We’re very keen to highlight Queenslanders’ legal needs, especially people who are facing discrimination, hardship and economic disadvantage, as access to justice shouldn’t be dictated by the size of a bank account,” Mr Farrell said.

“Our legal centres perform a vital role in our communities, helping people navigate through tough times, and our early support stops their problems spiraling out of control.

“While we appreciate the continuing support of politicians across party lines, we now need to ensure sufficient, sustainable and secure long-term funding from state and federal governments continues, so we can provide access to justice for all Queenslanders well into the future.”

Mr Farrell said community legal centres might be facing another funding cliff which could dramatically affect their ability to provide services to the community.

“To overcome this uncertainty we need Governments to include funding for our centres in its 2019-2020 State Budget forward estimates,” he said. 

“If the Budget in May 2019 has no funding provision for our sector, then we’ll be waiting on the 2020-2021 Budget which will only be a matter of weeks before the end of current funding on 30 June 2020 – this could be disastrous for our sector.

“What we really need is a funding allocation in the 2019-2020 State Budget for the next five years to ensure our communities know we’ll be there to help them when they need it most.”

Mr Farrell said the need for stronger laws to protect and promote Queenslanders’ human rights will also be raised during the meetings.

“Community legal centres provided free legal help to nearly 50,000 of the most vulnerable Queenslanders in the last year and our members have a unique insight into their experiences when they’re trying to interact with the Government, legal processes and the law.

“Based on these experiences we support strengthening laws and practices to protect and promote human rights and we certainly support increasing fairness and justice for vulnerable and disadvantaged Queenslanders - our clients.”

Mr Farrell said many of the community legal centres’ representatives meeting with State politicians today will also be making the most of the opportunity to discuss the Government’s Open Doors to Rental Reform and the need to make renting fair.

“It’s vital renters are able to access the legal help they need and that renting laws are fair,” Mr Farrell said.

“Many of Queensland’s community legal centres are involved in the Make Renting Fair in Queensland alliance, formed to contribute to the Government’s rental reform campaign, and we’re keen to ensure the right reforms are made to allow renters to make their houses their homes.

“This includes giving renters the right to remain in the home if they’re doing the right thing, limiting rental increases, bonds being returned with more ease and renters treated fairly and honestly and houses maintained beyond a basic standard of safety and security.

“With the numbers of renters of all ages and life stages increasing every year in Queensland, these people should also have the right to make their place feel like a home and that means being able to make minor changes like putting up picture hooks and keeping pets.”

Mr Farrell said the politicians in the meetings included members of all parties.