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Crossbench calls on Attorneys-General for legal sector lifeline, as vulnerable people left without help

Ahead of a meeting of Federal, State and Territory Attorneys Generals expected to occur on Friday morning, a group of 28 federal crossbench parliamentarians has written to Attorney General Mark Dreyfus and his state and territory counterparts, urging them to commit an additional $174m to support the country’s struggling community legal services.

The letter comes after the Albanese Government’s May budget failed to meet urgent recommendations of a recent review into the sector, which painted a stark picture of emaciated frontline services unable to meet growing community need, as vulnerable people struggle to access legal help.

Dr. Warren Mundy’s independent review of the National Legal Assistance Partnership (NLAP) was handed to Attorney General Dreyfus at the beginning of March this year. After Dreyfus refused calls to release the report ahead of the May budget, its publication at the end of May revealed Mundy had recommended $215m of urgent funding for the 2024-2025 financial year, to keep the sector afloat before the new agreement commences in June 2025. 

Despite having the report in hand when the budget was delivered in May, the government only committed $44m for the legal assistance sector – leaving a $171m shortfall – a decision that family violence prevention advocates, First Nations groups and the community legal sector have said will leave vulnerable people with nowhere to turn for help. 

The government has not formally responded to Mundy’s recommendations, pointing to the Standing Council of Attorneys General (SCAG) as the forum by which to discuss their response to the report. 

SCAG is expected to meet in Parliament house on Friday this week to discuss the Mundy Report. The crossbench MPs say governments should take this opportunity to commit to urgent funding that will provide much-needed help to the most vulnerable, including women and children experiencing family violence, and First Peoples.

You can view the letter and the signatories here.


Quotes attributable to Lidia Thorpe, Gunnai, Gunditjmara and Djab Wurrung independent Victorian Senator:

“Labor has been talking a big game about helping women and children experiencing family violence, but their failure to fund these services show they’re not taking the crisis seriously. 

“Right now over 50,000 women are being turned away from these life-saving services each year, and are being put in danger. 

“First Peoples across the country are being denied access to legal services – this is leaving families vulnerable to violence and child removal, and leading to further criminalisation of our people, risking further deaths in custody. 

“The government must act now. Every day they delay, more people are being denied justice and put in danger.” 

“The Attorney General did all he could to keep this report secret until after the May budget. And now we know why – it exposed the urgent need for emergency funding for the sector. The government has failed to provide this, and has failed the most vulnerable people in our community. It’s shameful neglect. And now is the time they should turn that around.”

Quotes attributable to Andrew Wilkie MP, Independent Member for Clark: 

“It’s clear that our community legal services are stretched to the limit trying to meet increasing demand. But the Federal Government failed to provide sorely needed funds in the Budget, despite having ample time to consider the recommendations from the Independent Review of the National Legal Assistance Partnership before the Budget was handed down.

“With the National Legal Assistance Partnership set to expire next year, it’s vital Federal and State governments consider the Review’s findings, accept the recommendations and establish a much better national agreement to adequately fund and structure legal services. Until this happens, all the Government announcements about protecting vulnerable people, including women, children and Indigenous people, is just spin.”


Quote attributable to Senator Tammy Tyrrell, Independent Senator for Tasmania:

 “People going through their most vulnerable moments are being turned away from legal assistance services. Past and present Governments have failed to make sure these services have adequate funding, and people in need are paying the price. Legal-assistance services are running on the smell of an oily rag. 

 “Tasmania has the lowest numbers of legal practitioners per population in the entire country. Tasmanians shouldn’t go without critical, potentially life-saving, assistance because the Government couldn’t be bothered to throw legal-assistance services a bone."


Quotes attributable to ACT Independent Senator, David Pocock:

“The government must urgently match its rhetoric on wanting to end violence against women and children with the funding it will take to actually do this.

“This means filling the funding gaps now for frontline service providers and community legal centres so people in desperate need of help to be safe can get it and not be turned away, as so many are currently.”



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