Liberal Candidate for Gosford, Ms Jilly Pilon, was joined by Attorney General, Mr Mark Speakman, on April 5, at Gosford Courthouse, to announce a $6 million funding package implemented over a two year period to ease the funding crisis of Community Legal Centres (CLCs) after the Federal Government decided it would not renew its CLC grants program.
“CLCs do incredible work helping the disadvantaged people with legal problems and the NSW Government’s action will secure their services for the future following the non-renewal of a federal funding program,” Mr Speakman said.
“This is a major win for vulnerable and disadvantaged people across the state who rely on CLC lawyers for free advice on critical issues in both the civil and criminal spheres, ranging from domestic violence and victims support to debts and tenancy disputes.
“The NSW Government is stepping in to secure the immediate future of CLCs, while continuing to work towards a sustainable long-term solution,” Mr Speakman added.
CEO of the NSW Council of Social Service, Ms Tracy Howe, said many CLCs across the state faced staff cuts and service reductions following the Federal Government’s decision.
“The State Government has really stepped up to the plate today to ensure justice services remain reliable and accessible to all NSW residents,” Ms Howe said.
“This funding will allow some of the most disadvantaged people and communities in NSW to retain access to the kind of legal assistance that can be life changing.
“CLCs ensure everyday problems don’t become major health, financial or justice issues,” Community Legal Centres NSW Chair, Ms Linda Tucker said.
Ms Tucker confirmed that without the State Government funding package, up to 30 positions throughout CLC’s across NSW were going to be lost.
CLCs provide free legal help to 55,000 people each year at more than 30 locations in metropolitan, regional and rural NSW, including the Central Coast, with a facility based in Wyong.
Central Coast CLC spokesperson, Mr Nassim Arrage, said the NSW funding package would allow the only Central Coast based CLC to retain a full time solicitor endangered of losing their position thanks to the funding cut.
“We help 6,000 Central Coast residents a year, and on average, we still have to turn away around 1,700 people, because we simply can’t meet the demand, so this funding package will ensure that at the very least, we can continue to service the Central Coast at the same rate that we have been,” Mr Arrage said.
Mr Speakman said the package ensured no CLC would be worse off in 2017-18 then they were in 2015-16.
“The 55,000 free legal services across the State have been historically funded by the Federal Government but the NSW Government could not simply stand by as access to justice services fell into a vacuum.
“They’re simply too important to lose,” Mr Speakman said.
Ms Pilon said she was proud to be the Liberal’s candidate for Gosford following the funding announcement and also announced security upgrades for Gosford Courthouse.
“Community justice and legal services are a vital part of the community and I am delighted that the State Government intervened to secure community legal services for the Central Coast and wider NSW.
“I, along with Mark Speakman, am also thrilled to announce the installation of safer court room docks in Gosford and the appointment of an additional sheriff’s officer,” Ms Pilon said.
“The new docks will bring Gosford Courthouse into line with many major metropolitan and regional courthouses across the State and improve safety for court users,” Mr Speakman said.
“The secure dock will make it easier for Corrective Services to manage defendants in custody, particularly those charged with serious violent offences,” he added.
The docks represent a $20,000 investment in safety for Gosford Courthouse and will be completed by the end of April.
The additional sheriff’s officer will also streamline efforts to improve safety for the building, with the new officer tasked with keeping court users safe in Gosford and Woy Woy.
“Strengthening security at major NSW courthouses, such as Gosford, is a key priority for the NSW Government,” Mr Speakman said.
The new sheriff’s officer will bring the total number at Gosford to 15.
Apr 5, 2017
Mark Speakman, Attorney General NSW
Jilly Pilon, Liberal candidate for Gosford By-election
Tracy Howe, NSW Council of Social Service
Linda Tucker, Community Legal Centres NSW
Nassim Arrage, Wyong Community Legal Centre
Dilon Luke, Journalist