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(Australian Associated Press)
NSW community legal centres – which give free legal help to more than 50,000 people annually – are set to get a $12 million funding boost in coming years.
The state government on Tuesday said it will be committing a total of $22 million over four years in next week’s budget for the centres and for civil justice initiatives to help small businesses and individuals resolve disputes quickly and cheaply.
There are more than 30 community legal centres across the state, which receive about $6.5 million in core funding each year.
That will be supplemented by top-ups worth more than $12 million over four years, starting with $3 million in 2018/19.
“This funding represents more funding certainty and (is a) significant increase in NSW government funding for CLCs to continue that often life-changing work supporting small business and some of the most disadvantaged people in our community when their chips are down,” Attorney-General Mark Speakman said in a statement.
The government is also promising $7 million in this year’s budget to improve the way small businesses resolve legal disputes using online tools.
“If small business operators can resolve their legal disputes at the click of a mouse or a tap of a touch screen, less time will be spent fighting legal battles and there’ll be more time to concentrate on the bottom line,” Treasurer Dominic Perrottet said.
The Law Society of NSW welcomed the announcement but remains concerned about “ongoing inadequacies” in court resourcing and legal aid.
President Doug Humphries also warned of “unforeseen issues” for legal practitioners and litigants by using new technology as part of the government’s civil justice strategy.
“Reliance on technology to administer and deliver court services may also have a disproportionately adverse impact on people who do not have ready access to online services,” he said in a statement.