Family violence groups speak out in open letter about danger of CLC cuts

Excerpts from Fair Agenda's press release:

A collective of 37 family violence groups have partnered with Fair Agenda in an open letter speaking out against the danger of the federal government’s planned funding cut to Community Legal Centres (CLCs).

The planned $12.1 million cuts to CLCs, due to take effect on July 1, will mean a major reduction in services by CLCs – which provide front line support for women and children trying to escape family violence, putting lives at risk.

It's a plan that's incredibly dangerous. Access to legal support is vital for women trying to escape an abuser. A decision to cut funding for community legal services is a decision to put more women in danger. That’s why family violence groups have come together to urge the Government to reverse the cuts.

Survivor advocate Rebeca Carro said, “Community legal support helped save my life. Without women’s legal service I would be a statistic, not a survivor.”

Survivor advocate Liana Papoutsis said: “I knew I needed help. The first service I reached out to was my Community Legal Centre -- and they provided me with critical support to start thinking about how I could get myself and my child out safely."

Governments' decision to inadequately resource Community Legal Centres means they are already forced to turn away 160,000 people annually, including women affected by violence. 

“Legal assistance is absolutely vital in supporting women experiencing family violence to be safe.” said Fiona McCormack, CEO of Domestic Violence Victoria.

“A cut to the funding of Community Legal Centres will have disastrous impacts for the safety of women and their children.”

In 2014, the Productivity Commission found that $200 million of additional funding per year was needed for Community Legal Centres to meet existing demand.

“It’s great to see the Government talking about domestic violence. But the more we talk about domestic violence – the more women reach out to services for help,” said Moo Baulch, CEO of Domestic Violence NSW.

“If you’re not funding the services to keep up with demand – you’re putting women in danger, and making it harder for them to seek the right support.” she added.

Can you join the campaign to stop the cuts? Sign and share the campaign here:


Open letter to the Turnbull Government: Please don't put more women in danger

To the Hon. Malcolm Turnbull MP, Prime Minister of Australia, and all members of the Turnbull Coalition Government,

As experts who work for people affected by family violence every day, we implore you to urgently reverse the planned Commonwealth funding cuts to Community Legal Centres. 

We know that access to legal assistance changes lives. It helps women and children stay safe, and gives them the power to make informed decisions so they can feel more in control of their lives. And in many cases it’s the reason someone can finally escape an abusive partner. 

A woman affected by family violence – whether that abuse is physical, emotional or financial – faces overwhelming legal obstacles to finding safety for herself, and any children she may have. She will often rely on Community Legal Centres for help with her urgent safety needs, as well as the legal information, advice and representation she needs to be safe in the future. This includes things like: 

  • Help securing a family violence order – to prevent a perpetrator from continuing to abuse or threaten her,
  • Help making sure she isn’t rendered homeless by any legal or financial issues created by her abuser,
  • Assistance to address financial abuse, including debts and fines that may have been accrued in her name to make her feel trapped and unable to escape, and
  • Access to financial counselling and social work services - to ensure she has the support she needs to re-establish her independence. 

Too often we hear from women affected by abuse that dealing with the courts and justice system is overwhelming, intimidating, and re-traumatising. We believe that Community Legal Centres also bring vital and unique expertise to the law reform process needed to improve our legal systems.

As family violence specialists we work with Community Legal Centres because we know their services help keep women and children safe.

But already Community Legal Centres and other services that people affected by family violence rely on don’t have the resources they need to be able to adequately help everyone who reaches out to them for assistance.

We’re very concerned that the planned 30% cut to Commonwealth funding for Community Legal Centres will have devastating consequences. We believe the cuts will put more women in danger.    

Your Government has previously recognised that “adequate investment in frontline services is critical to save lives.” We couldn’t agree more. We implore you to urgently reverse the cuts and appropriately resource all family violence services to ensure everyone reaching out has the support they need to be safe. 

Yours sincerely,

Domestic Violence NSW

Domestic Violence Victoria

Safe Steps – Family Violence Response Centre

Rape and Domestic Violence Services Australia

Coalition of Women's Domestic Violence Services of South Australia

InTouch Multicultural Centre Against Family Violence

Domestic Violence Crisis Service (ACT)

Domestic Violence Resource Centre Vitoria

Mitcham Family Violence Service

Mallee Sexual Assault Unit and Mallee Domestic Violence Service

Centacare Catholic Family Services

Women’s Information Referral Service (WIRE)

Women’s Health West

Carrie’s Place Domestic Violence and Homelessness Services Inc

Eastern Centre Against Sexual Assault

Women’s Domestic Violence Court Advocacy Services NSW Inc.

Women’s Information, Support and Housing in the North Inc (WISHIN)

Australian Women Against Violence Alliance (AWAVA)

Women’s Health in the South East

Emerge Women and Children’s Support Network

Women’s Health West

Eastern Metropolitan Region Family Violence Partnership

Southern Metropolitan Region Integrated Family Violence Executive Committee

Women’s Health Victoria

McAuley Community Services for Women

Central Highlands and Western Family Violence Division

Women with Disabilities Victoria

Share & Care Community Services Group Inc

Southern Metropolitan Integrated Family Violence Partnership

Federation of Ethnic Communities Councils of Australia

Penrith Women’s Health Centre Inc

Men and Family Centre Lismore

YWCA Housing

Berry Street

YWCA Victoria

Quantum Support Services

Georgina Martina Inc

Financial and Consumer Rights Council

Australian Association of Social Workers