Legal aid

Budget Review 2010-11 Index

Budget 2010–11: Legal issues and the Attorney-General’s portfolio

Legal aid

Diane Spooner

The Government will provide $154.0 million over four years to increase the resources available to legal assistance service providers. The funding will go to legal aid commissions, community legal centres and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services.[1]

In particular, the additional funding will be provided from 1 July 2010 and will include an additional:

  • $92.3 million over four years for legal aid
  • $39.9 million over four years for Indigenous legal services, and
  • $26.8 million over four years for community legal services programs.[2]

This will take the Commonwealth’s funding for legal assistance services to over $1.2 billion over four years.

Savings to fund this increase come from the reduction in funding of $84 million over four years across a range of Attorney-General’s Departmental programs, cuts to the Family and Federal Magistrates Courts by the Government not filling four judicial vacancies, and the reduction in the number of registries for the National Native Title Tribunal from four to two. There will also be a cut of $4.5 million from counselling services provided under the Family Relationship Services program.[3] As well, revenue of $66.2 million over four years will be raised by increasing hearing and filing fees for Commonwealth courts and tribunals and changing fee waivers and exemptions.[4]

The money allocated to legal aid will go to all States but not to the Northern Territory or the Australian Capital Territory. In commenting on the legal aid component, the director of the Tasmanian Legal Aid Commission, Norman Raeman is reported as saying:

The big boys scooped the whole pool and the little guys got totally dudded.[5]

South Australia also expressed disappointment, but the National Legal Aid chair, Alan Kirkland, welcomed the funding boost.[6]

The Law Council of Australia and the Victorian Bar Association have pointed out that the allocation of an average of $23 million in additional funds fell short of the $43 million required to return legal aid funding to 1997 levels.[7]

[1].    Australian Government, Budget measures: budget paper no. 2: 2010–11: Attorney-General’s Portfolio, Commonwealth of Australia, Canberra, 2010, p. 103, viewed 17 May 2010,

[2].    R McClelland (Attorney-General), Additional $154 million for legal assistance services, media release, 11 May 2010, viewed 17 May 2010,$154MillionforLegalAssistanceServices.

[3].    Budget measures: budget paper no. 2: 2010–11: Attorney-General’s Portfolio, op cit., p. 102.

[4].    Ibid., p. 104.

[5].    N Berkovic, Big boost to legal aid funding leaves small states ‘dudded’, Australian, 14 May 2010, p. 29, viewed 18 May 2010,;query=Id%3A%22media%2Fpressclp%2F3EPW6%22

[6].    Ibid.

[7].    R Nickless and J Eyers, Budget fails to quell aid dispute, Australian Financial Review, 14 May 2010, p. 46, viewed 18 May 2010,;query=Id%3A%22media%2Fpressclp%2FCAPW6%22

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