The Law Society of Western Australia is calling upon all candidates in the upcoming State election to make a public pledge to adequately fund legal assistance in Western Australia.
Candidates in the March election will be invited to make a commitment to the provision of an initial $8 million funding boost to legal assistance, and to the proper funding of legal assistance long term. Candidates may pledge their support at lawsocietywa.asn.au/pledge.
“Around 10,000 Australians a year are being forced to represent themselves in court because they can’t afford a lawyer. This includes the most vulnerable members of our community, for example women who are escaping domestic violence and who are forced to face their abusive former partners in court without a lawyer to assist them,” said Law Society President Alain Musikanth.
“In the first three weeks of January alone, the Mental Health Law Centre had to turn away 25 requests for legal assistance. Due to funding cuts, Legal Aid WA can no longer assist people by providing representation in the Magistrates Court. Members of our community are desperate and have nowhere else to turn.
“The system is in crisis and there will be no improvement without adequate funding for legal assistance. The Law Society is asking candidates in the upcoming election to make a public commitment to proper funding,” Mr Musikanth said.
The Productivity Commission has recommended that Federal and State Governments invest an additional $200 million in legal assistance funding for civil matters – the Western Australian Government’s proportion of that amount is an additional $8 million.
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