Stop South East Community Legal Services Closing
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The South East Legal Community Service in Mount Gambier being CLOSED.
The South East Legal Community Service Inc. (SECLS) in Mount Gambier, that has provided legal services of an exceptional standard to the community over the past 16 years, and with just 4 weeks notice has been told they must shut their doors on the 30th of June 2017.
This is an essential service that provides a range of free legal advice and legal assistance to those in our community who cannot afford it and would otherwise be without the right to legal assistance. SECLS fills the gap for those who are unable to get Legal Aid. This will reduce staff from SIX solicitors, FOUR administrative/intake officers and ONE legal education officer to only ONE solicitor and ONE part time administrator, for the whole region of the South East, Riverland, Fleurier Peninsula, Kangaroo Island and Murray Bridge. This will be provided by Southern Community Justice Centre who are based in Christie's Beach, a suburb of Adelaide 456km away.
SECLS 12 months ago ran with 3 full-time solicitors (one focusing on family law), 1 full-time legal education program officer, 1 full-time senior administrator and bankruptcy paralegal, 1 part-time administrator and divorce paralegal and 2 part-time administrators, just for the South East region. Over the years they have also taken on many law student placements. SECLS have said with the previous 3 full-time solicitors on, they were still very busy.
The closure of this service will have devastating effects on the community that will be seen through a number of issues such as mental health and suicide, financial hardship and bankruptcy, those trying to flee domestic violence and seeking divorce from abusive partners, those needing family law assistance, especially in toxic relationship breakdowns, unfair dismissal and other unfair employment issues not being resolved and therefore effecting employment, tenancy disputes effecting homelessness, and an injustice to those needing criminal law assistance, the list goes on. We are a community that is already battling against the mentality that Adelaide is all that exists in this state and have already been let down by the State government in the past for so many things, this is another blow which we cannot afford.
The State government are trying to blame the Federal government for cuts, however these cuts have now been reversed and yet SECLS is still set to be closed, along with 2 other essential legal services in the State. The South Australian government contributes the least amount of funding to legal services in comparison to other states, yet these services directly affect their constituents.
We call on the State government to reverse its decision to close the South East Legal Community Service and continue with the original funding model before the cuts were made.
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