The Victorian Coalition Government has allocated funds in this year’s Budget for a range of initiatives to support and strengthen Victoria’s justice system and protect the most vulnerable Victorians.
Attorney-General Robert Clark said Victoria Legal Aid (VLA) would receive $107 million over the next four years to help Victorians obtain legal advice and assistance.
“Despite growing numbers of Victorians in need of legal help, the previous government provided VLA with only short-term funding top-ups,” Mr Clark said.
“This Budget provides VLA with an ongoing addition to its base funding of more than $26 million a year, enabling VLA to plan for the future with confidence that its State Government Budget funding base is secure.
“This funding comes on top of the Coalition Government’s commitment of ongoing funding for Community Legal Centres in last year’s Budget, which allowed CLCs to continue to help regional Victorians and Victorians involved in family violence matters – help that CLCs would have been forced to cease providing under Labor’s lapsing funding.
“It is now up to the Gillard Government to end its cost-shifting and contribute its fair share to legal aid in next week’s Commonwealth budget,” Mr Clark said.
The Coalition Government has also allocated $50.4 million over four years so the justice system can better protect vulnerable children and families.
This funding responds to recommendations of the Protecting Victoria’s Vulnerable Children Inquiry. It includes $20.8 million over four years to expand the availability of New Model Conferencing, which enables the protection of children to be resolved through collaborative, child-centred approaches that minimise the need to go to court.
A further $17.1 million in recurrent and capital funding has been allocated for a new children’s court facility at Broadmeadows Magistrates’ Court. This facility will reduce demand on the Melbourne Children’s Court, allowing more matters to be heard at locations convenient for the children and families involved.
Dispute resolution services will receive ongoing funding totalling $20.4 million over four years. This funding fills yet another lapsing program gap left by the previous government, and will allow mediation of intervention order applications and various Magistrates’ Court civil claims to continue.
The Government has also allocated ongoing funding totalling $4.1 million over four years to support the provision of language services in the justice system for Victorians of non-English speaking language backgrounds.
Further ongoing funding totalling $3.2 million over four years has been allocated to support the continuation of reforms introduced in the Court of Appeal to reduce delays in criminal appeals. These reforms to date have achieved a substantial reduction in the number of pending criminal appeals.
Mr Clark said despite the current challenging budgetary situation, the Government was committed to supporting the vital work of the courts and other institutions of justice in protecting Victorians and upholding the law.
“Victoria’s challenges are real and they are serious, but the Coalition Government is taking a responsible and necessary approach to enhancing frontline services, and taking new measures to protect the most vulnerable Victorians,” Mr Clark said.