Chill wind hits local legal centre
July 3, 2013
Richard for 2011

Valuable work of Kings Cross legal centre threatened by State government funding agreement ... Inner City Legal Centre required to drop all law reform lobbing activities ... Army of volunteers working for minorities and under-privileged ... Money conditional on not offending the government ... Alix Piatek reports 

Kings Cross. Inner City Legal Centre - lawyers and staff with director Dan Stubbs front-centre

UNDER a new agreement proposed by NSW Attorney General Greg Smith the Inner City Legal Centre at Kings Cross will risk losing its grant of funding from the government if it continues its work as a law reform advocate. 

Centre director Dan Stubbs told Postcode2011 that the funding agreement could have a chilling effect on community legal centres. 

He has already heard of other centres hesitating to write to a minister on law reform issues.

The NSW State budget has also foreshadowed a $10 million cut to legal aid for the next financial year and a 10 percent cut to the Public Purpose Fund, which provides funding to Community Legal Centres.

But, its the government's funding agreement that has Stubbs worried.

Stubbs thinks that it will not only curb the Inner City Legal Centre's ability to lobby for law reform, but also puts submissions to the government in jeopardy. 

"We see a key part of our work as seeking to change the law ... There are a range of legal issues we know need to be acted upon." 

Stubbs said the relationship between the ICLC and the State government has always been a constructive one: 

"We aren't out there marching on the streets. We are making submissions, going to meet with ministers and discussing rationally what the issues are." 

If the centre does lose government funding Stubbs says he will have to cut his staff of four solicitors down to three, which will have a direct impact on the number of clients the centre can help. 

The government wants CLCs to focus of providing community assistance and to get out of advocacy and law reform. 

See point 3 of the principles for the funding of legal assistances services 

Recently, the ICLC along with several other CLCs advocated an extension of the 10 year time limit for victims' compensation claims. 

Stubbs said it was the centre's experience that most victims of child abuse don't come forward until they are in their late 30s or 40s.

Although law reform is a small part of the ICLC's work, nonetheless it has a strong history of advocacy.

This year it has made submissions on the law of provocation and victims compensation. It is also submitting a report on the violence associated with the most recent Mardi Gras. 

Stubbs says under the new funding agreement the only time submissions can be forthcoming from CLCs is when the government requests them. 

The exemption of religious organisations in the Anti-Discrimination Act is one issue that the ICLC says needs reform.

Currently the legislation allows lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgender and intersex people to be discriminated against by religious organisations on the basis of sexuality, without recourse.

Stubbs says people who are sacked by a religious school after they have come out cannot lodge an unfair dismissal application on that basis.

"Sometimes people visit or ring the centre and we have to tell them there is nothing we can do because their is no law against what has happened to them." 

The ICLC's location in the Cross has made it a focal point for the legal needs of sex workers, the homeless and the LGBTI community. 

History of Inner City Legal Centre

The Inner City Legal Centre, formerly the Inner City Legal Service, was formed 30 years ago when a group of experienced lawyers started giving free advice after work.

Support grew and the ICLC received funding from the Legal Aid Commission and various city law firms. 

The centre was able to set up shop in Kings Cross with the backing of the City Council and now operates from the council's property in Darlinghurst Road. 

In 1995, the centre brought the first discrimination test case for a HIV+ woman who was denied access to a clinical drug trial because she had the ability to bear children.

A year later, the centre won an award of damages for discrimination on the basis of HIV and sexuality. It was the first damages verdict for a case of this kind. 

The centre has also helped over a hundred LGBTI people draw up wills and other legal documents.

The ICLC now has a roster of 100 volunteers, including practising solicitors and barristers, and it employs two full-time and two part-time solicitors.

There's more on the history of the Inner City Legal Centre here.  

Reporter: Alix Piatek 

Article originally appeared on Local news from postcode 2011 (http://postcode2011.com.au/).
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