Response to an article in the Australian on 12/08/11
Michael Smith, NACLC's National Convenor, wrote a response to an article in The Australian that criticised CLC funding that was not published. The full text is below.
Dear Letters Editor,
Community Legal Centres (CLCs) like the Refugee and Immigration Legal Centre (RILC) play a vital role in encouraging an open and fair democracy. CLCs act for the best outcomes for their clients. When the law is unfair, it is appropriate to seek to test or change it. The fact that key cases pursued by centres like RILC have been successful in the High Court and elsewhere demonstrates the importance of poor and vulnerable people having access to quality legal services.
CLCs and other NGOs, in assisting highly disadvantaged and vulnerable clients, come face to face with barriers to justice on a daily basis. It’s entirely natural and appropriate that we learn from these experiences, then educate and advocate more broadly. Laws and practices are constantly being refined and the voices of disadvantaged communities should be heard within that process, rather than being silenced. This is not a partisan political agenda, it is squarely about serving our clients. CLCs like RILC are prepared to speak out and test laws and policies of any government without fear or favour.
The meagre funding for CLCs requires volunteers and pro bono supporters to ‘value add’ for any significant impact and even with this vital support our capacity is limited compared to the resources of government advancing its ‘solutions’. With the huge demand for individual services, funding for legal education and law reform is vital for true access to justice. Merely applying laws that are unjust or unfair limits outcomes for our clients and is financially inefficient.
If there is an agenda, it is for the human rights of our clients, as people with great need and needing a voice in the community, no matter their nationality or circumstance. Now there is a story that needs telling.
Please see the link below to read the original article.
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