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Legal centre loses staff

Wednesday, 18th March, 2015

Four staff members at the Far West Community Legal Centre have handed in their resignations amid uncertainties surrounding government funding.

The federal government has confirmed it will reduce funding from July 1 and it was not yet known what levels of state funding would be provided. 

The resignations include principal solicitor Mariette Curcuruto and solicitor Eliza Hull, long-term finance officer Vicki Cullen and CEO Tracey Willow. 

Ms Willow said the resignations were not taken lightly but the frontline service could not operate at its current level without a recurrent funding commitment. 

She urged the state and federal governments to work together to find a solution. 

“In the end, it is the people of the Far West NSW that will suffer. All we want to do is get on with the job of providing an effective, professional and quality legal service that clients with complex needs demand,” Ms Willow said.

“Workers who leave will be greatly missed but we want to continue on and provide the best service possible. To do this, (the centre) needs an adequate level of funding.”

Sussan Ley, the Member for Farrer, said she was frustrated by the funding cuts.

“I met with Tracey last week and am highlighting their funding concerns with the Federal Attorney General’s office,” she said. 

“The last thing we need is for their funding to get caught up in political jousting, so I’m probably as frustrated as the Community Legal Centre team on this.

“As soon as the state election is completed, I will also sit down with the new Member for Barwon to discuss the unique and vital role the Far West Community Legal Centre plays and how we can work together to provide funding certainty.”

The NSW Attorney General has acknowledged that victims of domestic violence and Aboriginal people will suffer if funding is removed.

Nassim Arrage, Chairman of Community Legal Centres NSW and Principal Solicitor of the Central Coast Community Legal Centre, said more than 15 centres could now close.

“The NSW Government needs to invest in the Community Legal Centre in Broken Hill, which provides free legal advice in the most remote parts of NSW,” Mr Arrage said. 

“We are calling on the NSW Government to invest more funding in Community Legal Centres to ensure that victims of domestic violence and Indigenous Australians do not suffer more.”

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