MASSIVE increases in the number of women accessing domestic violence services means Queensland’s community legal centres are unable to keep up with demand.
Last year community legal centres helped almost 60,000 vulnerable Queenslanders, but had to turn away more than 55,000.
A new report from Community Legal Centres Queensland titled Enough is Enough shows six times as many people seeking help for domestic violence issues as five years ago, but the services are not coping with demand.
Statistics from the industry peak body show 4429 people received ongoing assistance with family violence matters in 2016, compared with 626 in 2011.
That assistance includes court representation and help in applying for domestic violence protection orders.
In 2016, more than 11,000 people received information and advice from family violence services over the phone or in person.
Community Legal Centres Queensland director James Farrell said more women experiencing domestic violence were finding their voice and saying “enough is enough”.
“One of the first steps they take to address this problem is to call their closest community legal centre,” he said.
“Unfortunately only half of the people who ask for legal help are able to access it.
“The remaining fifty per cent are turned away because we just don’t have the resources we need to provide help for everyone who qualifies.
“While six times more people got help to understand how they could apply for a protection order or respond to an application, these people have many more legal problems and often can’t get the help they need.”
The Enough is Enough report showed an increase in the use of family violence legal services occurred along with increasing demand for other services for victims of violence.
Domestic violence order applications and the number of emergency hotel rooms used by women fleeing violence have both risen sharply in recent years.
“People experiencing family violence can have many other legal problems, including family law, housing, employment and debt,” Mr Farrell said.
“It’s vital that these people can address all of their legal problems while they access safety, but the safety net is under threat.”
In July this year the Commonwealth Government will cut almost 30 per cent of funding to community legal centres across Australia.
Community Legal Centres Queensland is calling on Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Attorney General George Brandis to reverse this decision to ensure people experiencing domestic violence are able to get the legal help they need and get the justice they deserve.
In a statement, Senator Brandis said the Federal Government supported the work of the legal assistance sector.
“Commonwealth funding for Queensland Community Legal Centres has increased significantly under the Coalition from $6.77 million in 2013/14 to $9.56 million this financial year,” Seantor Brandis said.
He said the funding cut was a result of decisions made by the previous Labor government.