Getting the right legal help can mean the difference between reaching a resolution quickly – or years of financial and emotional stress, often hitting vulnerable people especially hard. Community Legal Centres throughout Queensland provided free support to more than 60,000 people last year, regardless of their bank balance, through advice, information, representation and support, as well as education to help avoid legal problems in the future. That’s a lot of legal needs met, and lives changed.
“But another 60,000 people phoned our centres but were unable to speak to a lawyer,” Communications Manager Cathy Baker points out. “Renters couldn’t find out about their rights to stay in their home, a customer couldn’t get advice about their dispute with a bank, and no one could help a mum to go to court to talk about custody of her children.”
Fighting for the right to legal help
When funding cuts threatened Queensland community legal centres’ vital, and already overstretched, services in 2017, Community Legal Centres Queensland knew exactly who would be hurt. And they weren’t about to take it lying down.
“Leading up to the 2017 Federal Budget, we ran a public relations campaign called, ‘Reverse the cuts’,” Cathy says. “We met with state and federal MPs, ran a media and social media campaign and found ‘friends of the sector’ to make public statements in support of our work.
“Significant media coverage was generated across print articles, radio and TV which highlighted the work of our centres and the impact on communities if the cuts went ahead.”
The resulting community and government engagement saw the Federal Government grant $55.7 million over the three years to the legal services sector. $39 million of that funding will be directed to community legal centres and $16.7 million to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander legal services. And the $10,000 HESTA Award prize money from proud sponsor ME – the bank for you – will help keep the momentum up.
“We’ll use the prize money to deliver phase two of our campaign, which will include educating decision makers in government about the important services we provide for everyday Queenslanders,” Cathy confirms.
“The funds will also help us get on with the job of giving people the legal support they so desperately need and so rightly deserve.”