LABOR will support free legal aid in New England if elected, promising $300,000 to the Armidale Community Legal Centre over the next three years.
The funding is part of a $43m package for frontline legal services working to help survivors of domestic violence.
Armidale Community Legal Centre (CLC) principal solicitor Terry King said her organisation offered free legal advice to everyone, regardless of their situation, and welcomed any additional funding.
“We’re like the GP of the legal world,” Ms King said.
The government will cut CLC funding by 30 per cent from July next year.
Ms King said the loss of funding would dramatically affect Armidale CLC’s outreach program.
“We travel all over the region –
Tamworth, Quirindi, Wee Waa, Moree, Glen Innes – offering free legal advice face-to-face,” she said.
“If we lose funding, it would be difficult for us to provide that program at the same level of service.
“It would also mean we won’t be able to handle the number of cases we currently have, so we would be doing more legal advice rather than taking on cases.”
Country Labor New England candidate David Ewings said CLCs were vital to the community and often help people when they are at their lowest and most desperate.
“Victims of domestic violence and financial scams are among the most common of their clients,” Mr Ewings said. “Thanks to the damaging cuts by Tony Abbott and George Brandis, backed by Malcolm Turnbull and Barnaby Joyce, 160,000 people were turned away from Community Legal Centres last year alone. This is not right and Labor will address it.
“Only a Shorten Labor government will ensure the people of the New England have access to legal services in times of need.
“You can trust Labor to protect Community Legal Centres. The only guarantee you will get from a Turnbull government is a cut to funding.”