Cash injections into the legal system are very welcome. The Federal Budget 2015 announced $1.3 billion for courts to improve their services, including refurbishments. There was also the promise of $12 million for community legal services and $11.5 million for Aboriginal legal assistance.
We just hope that these funds are going to the right places. Last week Redfern Legal Centre announced that it might have to cut its services in half due to gaps in government funding. The Centre estimates that it would have to turn away 500 clients each year due to the shortfall.
Perhaps the government has not considered the real costs of the Redfern Legal Centre’s reduced capacity. The costs to individuals alone are enough to justify greater investment. As Jo Shulman, CEO of the RLC said in an interview with the ABC: “We prevent people – particularly vulnerable people and people who’ve had histories of abuse, or significant disabilities that keep them from working – we prevent them from falling on that cycle of disadvantage and cycle of poverty.”
The costs to the community will be equally egregious. The cycle of disadvantage that Shulman mentions leads to crime, public order issues and greater strain on court systems. Those controlling the funds need to realise that it is much more economical to prevent this cycle, rather than being burdened with the cost of spiralling consequences. Put simply, short-term investment in community justice represents a long-term saving.
After all, smart justice is the only justice.
Accredited Specialist in Criminal Law
If you wish to help the Redfern Legal Centre continue its crucial community legal work, donate here: https://www.givenow.com.au/redfernlegalcentreappeal