ALHR Activities

Cuts to legal services risk human rights

Date 20 December 2013
Subject Access to Justice
Type Press Release
Description Cuts to legal services risk human rights
Australian Lawyers for Human Rights (ALHR) have joined national calls for the Australian Government to reconsider its cuts to legal services.
?These cuts will undermine national efforts to protect the human rights of all Australians,? said ALHR President, John Southalan.
ALHR opposes cuts to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services, Family Violence Prevention Legal Services, and Community Legal Centres. ?All of these services play a critical role in the Australian legal system. They ensure that vulnerable people can access the legal system on an equal footing,? Southalan noted.
These cuts contrast with the Government's announcement, in November 2013, to increase the funding it will provide to pastoralists, commercial fishers and miners who oppose native title claims. That funding is provided even though the law already prioritises those parties' interests over native title rights.
International human rights standards require governments to manage budgets in a fair and accountable manner. Where various levels of government have responsibility for resources and ensuring basic rights, there must be consultation and allocation of responsibilities and resources relative to the governments' obligations. Importantly, the needs of people most disadvantaged should be prioritised. Contrary to these standards, the Commonwealth Government proposes cuts without negotiating how the relevant bodies and State/Territory institutions would be able to respond.
?All over Australia the legal services are saying they will struggle to absorb these cuts. Access to justice is a fundamental human right?, said Southalan, adding ?Community legal services are already incredibly cost- effective. They do challenging work with minimal resources, and any cuts will undermine their ability to ensure basic rights are protected in this country.?

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