Funding delivered for elder abuse
No new funding for legal aid or the courts
Senate reacts by passing motion calling for increased legal aid funding
The Australian Government delivered Budget 2018-19 on Tuesday 8 May and while it did not contain any significant new funding for legal aid or the courts, there was some welcome news with $22 million committed to protecting vulnerable Australians from elder abuse.
The government announced in the Budget that it would establish an Elder Abuse Knowledge Hub as well as conduct a National Prevalence Research scoping study and develop a National Plan to combat elder abuse.
The Law Council also supported other Budget measures such as:
- $3.6m over four years for the establishment of an Anti-Slavery Unit to manage the implementation of a Modern Slavery Reporting Requirement;
- $1.2m over four years for the implementation of the Optional Protocol on the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment; and
- $1.6m over two years to develop and deliver a national apology to the victims of institutional child sexual abuse.
Following the Budget announcement, which omitted any significant new legal aid or court funding the Senate passed a motion, calling on the Australian Government to reverse the downward trend in legal aid funding, which is at its lowest level in more than 20 years.
The motion was agreed on Thursday 11 May and stated that an additional $190 million would have been required in this year’s Budget to see the government to return to a 50 per cent share of Legal Aid funding, which did not occur.
The Productivity Commission has previously called for an urgent injection of $200 million to civil legal aid.
The motion acknowledged the valuable work undertaken by legal aid providers and those who volunteer their time on a pro bono basis.
It also called on all senators to become supporters of legal aid and participate in their local ‘Walk for Justice’ event on National Pro Bono Day, Tuesday 15 May.
As the Law Council’s Justice Project has highlighted, the preventative, everyday role of timely legal assistance stops simple problems from escalating into more serious matters at great cost to the taxpayer and community.
The Law Council will continue to advocate to end the under-funding of the courts and legal aid that is causing untold damage to the lives of many Australians.
Further information regarding the Budget and items of interest to the Australian Legal Profession were circulated in a memorandum prepared on Budget night.
You can read the Senate motion media release here and access the Budget media release here.