Legislative Council: Tuesday, February 20, 2024


Community Legal Services

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS (15:01): I seek leave to make a brief explanation before addressing a question without notice to the Attorney-General on the topic of community legal services.

Leave granted.

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: On 8 February this year, Community Legal Centres Australia wrote to federal Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus KC seeking urgent additional investment of at least $125 million nationally to prevent the current funding crisis for 164 local legal services from worsening further. Their analysis reveals that Community Legal Centres are being forced to turn away over 200,000 people nationally each year. Community Legal Centres provide free assistance to people who need legal services information or education. My question to the Attorney-General is:

1. What is the government doing to ensure that people who need legal services in South Australia are able to access them?

2. Will the Attorney-General be advocating for more funding for the Legal Services Commission in the next state budget?

The Hon. K.J. MAHER (Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Attorney-General, Minister for Industrial Relations and Public Sector) (15:02): I thank the honourable member for his important question. The provision of legal services to those in our community who need them is a very important issue. It is certainly something I have been very interested in since coming to government. I regularly meet with the body that provides an overarching voice for Community Legal Centres, as well as individual Community Legal Centres.

Very regularly, when I am on visits in regional South Australia, it is a great pleasure—and I have talked about this a number times in this chamber—to meet with Community Legal Centres. Only in the last week I met with a community service that provides legal advice and services to Aboriginal people in relation to family violence and other matters in the regions. When I was recently in the Riverland I had the benefit of dropping into the Community Legal Centre in Berri.

A very substantial review has been conducted by Dr Warren Mundy, the NLAP Review, which is looking at the provision of funding to community legal services right across Australia, including to ATSILS (Aboriginal Torres Strait Islander Legal Services) as well. That review, if not published, is due to be published soon, and I look forward to working with my federal colleagues, particularly the federal Attorney-General, in relation to recommendations made in that review.