Attorney-General George Brandis
Attorney-General George Brandis AAP Image - Tracey Nearmy

Legal aid funding restored from July

THE Abbott Government has backed down over $6 million in planned cuts to legal aid, after a widespread backlash over last year's budget decision.

Attorney-General George Brandis yesterday confirmed the funding would be restored from July, after months of uncertainty in the legal community.

The funding for community legal centres supported lawyers providing advice to low-income Australians on issues from workplace disputes to domestic violence.

Senator Brandis has rectified the funding for two years, with $25.5 million for legal aid commissions, community legal centres and indigenous legal aid services.

But the proposed cut will still apply to environmental defenders offices in each state and territory.

National Association of Community Legal Centres chairman Michael Smith welcomed the backdown yesterday and the recognition it brought to the demand for the support the centres provided.

But he said the sector also needed the government to act on a Productivity Commission inquiry recommendation to add an extra $200 million to legal centres, as demand was outstripping supply.

Mr Smith also was concerned the Federal Government, which is reforming the grants process, planned to leave it up to state governments to decide where the money was spent, without a national agreement.

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