AFLS welcomes the 2021-22 WA State Budget commitment to the legal assistance sector, says more investment in Family Violence Prevention Legal Services is required 

 

Aboriginal Family Legal Services WA (AFLS), a key legal assistance provider in the Pilbara, Kimberley, Mid-West Gascoyne and Goldfields regions, welcomes the State Government’s investment into the legal assistance sector, announced yesterday in the 2021-22 Western Australian State Budget.

AFLS CEO Corina Martin said that the $3.995 million in 2021-22 to respond to the increased demand for legal services due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic is a welcome and necessary commitment by the Government to fund Family Violence Prevention Legal Services (FVPLSs) and Community Legal Centres (CLCs), which provide critical legal and other supports to some of the state’s most at-risk and vulnerable cohorts.

“If distributed appropriately, this funding will help services like AFLS to grow our service capacity, address unmet need for legal support in responding to family violence across regional Western Australia, and meet the growing cost of service delivery including payment of staff salaries,” she said. The funding commitment will also enable the service to provide a mix of practical, educational and advocacy supports at an intensive level of engagement, to ensure the needs of clients are addressed beyond the demands of their legal case.

However, AFLS expressed concern over the impending allocation of the funding and said that it fell short in providing the kind of assurance needed for the service, and the sector generally, to continue providing support for clients without being impacted by constraints and uncertainty about the future.

“We recognise the demand for funding in the areas of tenancy advice, consumer, employment and mental health, but the evidence shows that FDV has continued to rise ever since COVID-19 started to impact our lives, and the rates don’t look to be decreasing. Aboriginal women continue to experience FDV at increasingly disproportionate rates, and I am concerned that the failure of the funding commitment to require at least a proportion of the funding to be specifically allocated to FDV will negatively impact the availability of services to those experiencing family and domestic violence,” Ms Martin said.

In particular, funding for FVPLS services in WA has historically fallen short, with limited consideration of the demand for Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations such as FVPLSs to provide services to Aboriginal people experiencing family and domestic violence. Ms Martin said that the State Government must adequately fund Aboriginal organisations to deliver culturally appropriate services that understand the particular history and culture of their service users.

AFLS commended the State Government for recognising the demands of the legal assistance sector and encouraged the Government to work closely and genuinely with service providers to provide culturally appropriate service responses in the sector that will effectively improve outcomes for service users.