: WA Legal Aid funding news

WA Legal Aid funding news

Steven Castan
Western Australia

Some good news in relation to funding for Legal Aid in Western Australia has been announced despite major federal funding cuts in the 2014–2015 Federal Budget.

In May, the WA Attorney General Michael Mischin announced that West Australians who cannot afford to seek legal advice or representation will benefit from a $2.3 million funding boost to Legal Aid WA.

The additional funding, allocated over the next four years, will allow the organisation to employ four extra lawyers in its duty lawyer service, which provides free advice and representation to people who appear on a range of non-trial matters in the Magistrates Courts.

The Attorney General noted however, that the decision to cut $1.49 million from Legal Aid WA in the 2014–15 Australian government budget would put further pressure on the organisation, particularly as the state was now intervening in areas traditionally funded by the Commonwealth.

The Mental Health Court Diversion pilot program will be extended for a further year in the Perth Magistrates Court and the Children’s Court, with funding of $800 000 to the Department of Attorney General for a magistrate and support staff, and to Legal Aid for a duty lawyer.

However, the WA Lawyers Association President Linda Black has expressed concern that the budget cuts of $15 million to legal aid will have the result of more people ending up in prison. Ms Black said the cuts were particularly unfair to mentally ill people who will have to rely on private law firms agreeing to represent them without charge or assistance from community legal centres, which have also had their funding cut.

STEVEN CASTAN is a WA-based barrister and nationally accredited mediator.

(2014) 39(3) AltLJ 200
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