Legal Aid

13 September 2017

Federation Chamber

Wednesday 29 March 2017

Brooke is a Central Coast mum who lives with severe post-traumatic stress disorder and anxiety as well as other medical problems. To cope with family violence and sexual assault, Brooke turned to alcohol, and when that became too much her daughter was removed from her care. Brooke could not keep up with her mortgage payments, and the bank threatened to take her home, so she turned to the Central Coast Community Legal Centre for help. The Central Coast Community Legal Centre represented Brooke in negotiations with the bank, linked her with a financial counsellor, and worked closely with the bank to halt foreclosure and help with mortgage payments. At the same time, they brought in a case management service to help with alcohol rehabilitation and other support services. With the help of the caring and dedicated staff at Central Coast Community Legal Centre, Brooke was able to keep her home and is working hard to get her daughter back.

Jack is an elderly Indigenous man with disability, including visual and mobility impairments. Jack also has a low level of literacy. On the advice of a lender, Jack took out a personal loan. He had already accrued a large credit card debt with the same lender and was encouraged to take out the loan to refinance his credit card debt. He did not realise how big the repayments were going to be or that meeting them would mean making the choice between food and essential medicine or paying back the loan. When he asked the Central Coast Community Legal Centre for help, they found his personal loan was for a larger amount of money than Jack owed on the credit card. They helped him complete an application for financial hardship assistance, which saw his loan repayments reduced to $20 per week. They also arranged a financial counsellor to help him with budgeting and to better manage his financial affairs.

These are two of the nearly 6,000 people helped by the Central Coast Community Legal Centre last year. Sadly, a further 1,700 were turned away. From 1 July this year, the Central Coast Community Legal Centre will have its funding cut by around $74,000. Without this funding, the service will have to cut either a director or the Aboriginal access worker. This will seriously jeopardise their ability to help people in need like Jackpeople experiencing family law issues, problems with debt, including Centrelink's robo-debt, and discrimination. They are a vital support for victims of family and sexual violence.

The value that community lawyers provide my community is enormous. Their work helps keep families together, people out of jail and people employed, and it protects those who need it most. The government should, and must, reverse these cuts as a matter of urgency. We cannot see more people living like Jack, more people placed in situations where they are in desperate need and do not get the support that they need to find help.