Federal Budget 2017-18 and the legal sector 

The Federal Government has committed $80 million to family law and family violence services.

“This will help repair a family law system on the verge of breaking,” Law Society of NSW president Pauline Wright said. “Families turn to the justice system in crisis.

“This critically needed funding could help reduce the hardship for many parents and children who spend years and thousands of dollars struggling through mediation and court processes.”

Ms Wright said the commitment of $10.7 million for family consultants to deal with family law cases and $3.4 million for six new domestic violence units could provide a much needed safety net for families who were falling through the cracks.

“Additional funds for support services including social workers and psychologists could assist family members in distress,” she said.

Ms Wright said the Law Society of NSW was reviewing proposals including the commitment of an additional $12.7 million to establish parenting management hearings.

The Society was also ready to contribute to a comprehensive review into the family law system by Australian Law Reform Commission, Ms Wright said.

“We have consistently supported the Law Council of Australia in seeking reform to the family law system to get the best outcomes for families and provide adequate safeguards for victims of family violence and child abuse,” Ms Wright said.“We await the Federal Government’s release of proposed safety measures to protect victims of family violence from the trauma of coming face-to-face with alleged perpetrators for cross-examination in court.”

The Federal Government’s previously announced commitment of $55.7 million in funding to the community legal sector over the next three years showed the government was listening to the sector.

“The allocation of $39 million to Community Legal Centres and $16.7 million to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander legal services provides a lifeline to disadvantaged and vulnerable people in society who might otherwise be turned away from help,” Ms Wright said.

“However the legal assistance sector needs the certainty of a longer term commitment for funding. Only then can it promise people in need that they will never be turned away again.”

Ms Wright said the Society also welcomed the Federal Government’s commitment of an initial $33.4 million to a national compensation scheme for victims of child sexual abuse in institutions.

“We look forward to upcoming briefings by Attorney-General George Brandis and Social Services Minister Christian Porter,” Ms Wright said.

© 2017 Legal Practice Intelligence