Legal Centre wins federal funding
Saturday, 11th May, 2013
By Erica Visser
After a long battle and forced cutbacks, the Far West Community Legal Centre has been given $215,000 by the Federal Government.
The service had already received $258,000 funding annually, however money has been tight since January last year and the Centre was forced to make cuts.
It is no longer open on Fridays and CEO Tracey Willow and Principal solicitor, Mariette Curcuruto, took a voluntary pay cut, in response to dire financial circumstances.
Ms Curcuruto said that it was important that the service stayed open as it helped the community’s most disadvantaged people who often could not afford to see a private solicitor.
According to Ms Curcuruto, the team had been lobbying for more money since August last year.
The campaign gained publicity and support and a series of fundraisers made around $17,000 for the centre, which was enough to “top it up.”
CEO Tracey Willow said she was “absolutely ecstatic” upon hearing news of the once-off funding injection yesterday.
“The board and all the staff have been told and everyone is very grateful and excited,” she said.
The centre will now reopen on Fridays and Ms Willow and Ms Curcuruto will receive their full salaries from July 1.
Ms Curcuruto said that the money would keep the service afloat for the next 18 months and help fund visits to areas which had seen reduced services of up to 75 per cent.
These include Wilcannia, Menindee and the Broken Hill Correctional Centre.
But while the centre is thrilled about the boost, Ms Curcuruto said that its annual funding was not enough to service such a large area and for such extensive work.
“In a slow year, we do about 700 advisory sessions and have about 190 to 200 ongoing files.”
She said that it would struggle if more funding was not provided after 18 months.
Ms Curcuruto said the NSW Government has made no financial contribution.
The Legal Centre’s President, Linda Nadge, agreed and said that the government needed to realise the cost of providing such an extensive service.
“Today’s announcement is a positive outcome but there is still much more work to be done to ensure continuity and certainty of the services in the future,” Ms Nadge said.
“We sincerely thank the Minister and the Senator for the allocation. However, we must remind all governments we have lobbied during the last year that more than a ‘one off funding injection’ is needed.
“The board and staff look forward to gaining an understanding in the very near future about how ongoing funding certainty can be achieved.
“This will enable properly planned continuity of services and the ongoing full dedication of all staff.”
All three women thanked the public, the Federal and State local MPs and the Federal Government for their support.
Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus QC said that he was pleased to provide the funding to support the disadvantaged.
“Australians are entitled to a fair go under the law and organisations like the Far West Community Legal Centre are essential to providing that access to justice,” he said.