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Under threat

Thursday, 5th March, 2015

The Far West Community Legal Centre’s Bianca Cattonar, CEO Tracey Willow and solicitor Eliza Hull at yesterday’s rally against government changes which could see cuts to two thirds of the centre’s funding. PICTURE: Erica Visser The Far West Community Legal Centre’s Bianca Cattonar, CEO Tracey Willow and solicitor Eliza Hull at yesterday’s rally against government changes which could see cuts to two thirds of the centre’s funding. PICTURE: Erica Visser

By Erica Visser

Two out of three solicitors at the Far West Community Legal Centre will lose their jobs if funding cuts go ahead.

A rally was held in Broken Hill yesterday morning in recognition of proposed changes to the way state and federal governments fund local community services, due to come into effect on July 1.

Australian Services Union NSW Deputy Secretary, Natalie Lang, said governments were trying to “rip the heart and soul” out of frontline services in the city.

“Hundreds of local community services like women’s refuges, youth services and mental health services are under attack from the government who wants to replace them with corporatised one size fits all services.

“We’re seeing services that have worked with their local community for decades have their funding stripped out from underneath them.”

The legal centre’s CEO, Tracey Willow, said that she was in talks with State Minister for Western NSW and candidate for Barwon, Kevin Humphries.

“They’ve decided to take $380,000 away from us over the next two years. We will lose two out of three of our solicitors,” Ms Willow said.

“The bottom line is we’ll be operating with one solicitor. What we offer the community will be limited.”

The centre is no stranger to cuts. In 2013 it was  forced to close temporarily on Fridays and Ms Willow and principal solicitor Mariette Curcuruto took a pay cut.

The federal government bailed the centre out then with a one-off cash injection of $215,000 - on top of the $258,000 it had already received that year.

Ms Willow urged elected MPs to again take notice of the centre’s plight, stating there were tangible consequences for the shift to corporate-run services.

She said that attendance at yesterday’s rally, at the Silly Goat Cafe in Argent Street, had demonstrated the public support for the cause.

“What I’m happy about is community members turned up to show their support. I think that sends an important message forward to the state and federal governments.”

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