The Attorney-General's portfolio serves the people of Australia in regional and non-regional localities by supporting the Government in the maintenance and improvement of Australia's system of law and justice and its national security and emergency management systems. Many of the Government's programs and payments for law and justice, and emergency management, are specifically targeted to meet the needs of regional and remote communities.
Table 2 illustrates a summary of expenditure by program disaggregated between regional Australia, non-regional and non-specific location for the budget year and forward estimates for the Attorney General's portfolio.
The Attorney-General's portfolio is committed to supporting rural and regional Australia. All Regional Family Dispute Resolution and Post Separation Cooperative Parenting services under the Family Support Program are located in regional Australia. These two services will receive $11.5 million in 2012‑13.
Forty-six Community Legal Centres (CLCs) are located in regional, rural and remote Australia. While a significant amount of funding for this program is indicated in the above table as non-regional there are a number of CLCs that provide state-wide services including outreach services to rural, regional and remote areas. Approximately 60 per cent of the Attorney-General's portfolio grants for legal assistance are provided to persons who reside in non-metropolitan areas.
Indigenous Australians living in regional Australia are served through a number of Attorney General's portfolio programs. Eighty eight per cent of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services Program service outlets and the entirety of the Indigenous Family Violence Prevention Legal Services Program are targeted at regional Australia.
It should be noted that successful grant applicants often have head offices based in non-regional areas while their projects may be based in regional areas resulting in significant benefits to those communities. The Attorney-General's portfolio also supports the Australia Government's agenda in regional Australia through the delivery of a number of Specific Purpose and National Partnership programs such as the Australian Government Disaster Recovery Payment and the Natural Disaster Relief and Recovery Arrangements (NDRRA) that are expressly excluded from the above table in this spatial report.
Australian Government Disaster Recovery Payment
The Commonwealth may provide direct assistance to disaster affected individuals and families through the Australian Government Disaster Recovery Payment (AGDRP) or via an equivalent ex gratia payment to eligible New Zealanders. The AGDRP and the ex gratia payment are intended as a helping hand, rather than emergency assistance, to support individuals and families that have been so significantly affected by a disaster that assistance beyond that already provided by the Commonwealth and State Governments through the NDRRA is needed.
In 2011‑12 a provision of $85.5 million has been made based on estimated payments for the current financial year ($68.9 million has been paid up to 3 May 2012).
The AGDRP is a one-off payment provided under the Social Security Act 1991 (the Act) to eligible Australian residents. It is made pursuant to the Act if the Attorney-General and Minister for Emergency Management determines an event is a major disaster.
The AGDRP provides short-term financial assistance of $1,000 to adults and $400 to children who are adversely affected by a major or widespread disaster, either in Australia or overseas.
Family Support Program — family law service stream
The Department provides ongoing funding for a range of post-separation services under the family law stream of the Family Support Program (FSP). The funded services are: Family Relationship Centres; the Family Relationships Advice Line; Family Dispute Resolution; Regional Family Dispute Resolution; Children's Contact Services; Parenting Orders Program; Post Separation Cooperative Parenting; and Supporting Children after Separation Program and Counselling.
The family law services stream aims to provide alternatives to formal legal processes for families who are separated, separating or in dispute to improve their relationships in the best interests of children.
These FSP family law stream services are provided by not for profit community based organisations and are located throughout Australia, including regional areas. All Regional Family Dispute Resolution and Post Separation Cooperative Parenting services are located in regional Australia. These two service types will jointly receive $11.5 million in 2012‑13.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services Program
Commonwealth funding for Indigenous legal aid will be $65.6 million in 2012‑13. The Legal Aid for Indigenous Australians Program provides culturally sensitive and accessible legal aid and related services across Australia. Currently, 88 per cent of service outlets are located in regional, rural or remote locations. Funding agreements are in place from July 2011 to June 2014. Management of legal assistance services to the Torres Strait and Northern Peninsula will be added in July 2012. An additional $2.3 million will be made available in 2012‑13 under the Stronger Futures initiative in the Northern Territory.
Indigenous Family Violence Prevention Legal Services Program
The Government will commit $19.1 million in 2012‑13 to 14 Indigenous Family Violence Prevention Legal Service providers covering 31 identified high-need rural, regional and remote areas. These organisations provide legal and other associated services to victims and survivors of family violence.
Community Legal Centres
There are 138 Community Legal Centres (CLCs) funded under the Commonwealth Community Legal Services Program. Forty-six (33 per cent) of these services are located in regional, rural and remote areas of Australia. In addition to these 46 regionally located CLCs, there are other organisations located in metropolitan areas that receive Commonwealth funding to provide targeted specialist assistance in both metropolitan and regional or rural areas through outreach work and 1800 or 1300 telephone advice lines. Several CLCs are funded to employ rural women's outreach lawyers for the provision of legal services to women in rural and remote areas, particularly where isolation is exacerbated by factors such as disability, age and domestic violence. Dedicated women's legal services and CLCs funded to provide Indigenous Women's Projects also provide extensive outreach services to outlying communities.
Access to Justice Website
The Access to Justice website, www.accesstojustice.gov.au, provides an easy way for people who are experiencing difficulties or are in dispute to find helpful information about services that can assist them, wherever they live. The website enables people to identify services operating in their local area, which may particularly assist people in regional areas or identify state-wide services that provide outreach to regional areas.
Improving Access to Justice — Legal Assistance Priorities
The Government is committed to enhancing access to justice for all Australians, including Australians who live in rural and regional areas. The Government is providing an additional $154.0 million funding over four years from 2010‑11 to 2013‑2014 to enhance access to justice for disadvantaged and vulnerable Australians through increased funding for legal aid commissions, community legal centres and Indigenous legal services. This funding will help to increase the availability of legal assistance generally, and will provide particular support for service providers in regional Australia. The Government's total investment in Commonwealth legal assistance services for 2012‑13 is $333.0 million, and is provided to the programs below.
Legal aid commissions
Commonwealth legal aid funding in 2012‑13 is $198.0 million, which includes $9.9 million for the Expensive Commonwealth Criminal Cases Fund. There are approximately 79 legal aid commission offices across the country, and around 46 are located in rural, regional and remote areas (approximately 58 per cent). Approximately 60 per cent of grants of legal assistance are provided to persons who reside in non metropolitan areas.
The National Partnership Agreement on Legal Assistance Services between the Australian Government and the States and Territories came into effect from 1 July 2010. One of the aims of the Agreement is to improve the targeting of services for disadvantaged Australians, including those living in regional, rural and remote locations. The enhanced focus on preventative and early intervention services that is required by the Agreement is expected to lead to more outreach services to areas which now lack services.
National Broadband Network Regional Legal Assistance Program
The National Broadband Network (NBN) Regional Legal Assistance Program provides grant funding to trial NBN-based initiatives that seek to strengthen and increase legal assistance delivery in regional and remote areas. Legal assistance providers will be funded to trial the use of the NBN in innovative service delivery as well as to support regional or remote legal assistance staff. The total Program funding is $4.0 million over four years.
Regional, Rural and Remote Legal Assistance Services and Initiatives
The Australian Government is committed to working collaboratively with legal assistance services and the private legal sector in order to raise awareness of the particular problems facing lawyers and communities in regional and remote areas. The Attorney-General's Department has contributed one-off funding towards a number of projects and initiatives that aim to alleviate these problems and encourage long term solutions. These include: the Recruitment and Retention of Lawyers in Regional, Rural and Remote (RRR) Areas Project, managed by the National Association of Community Legal Centres to pursue initiatives to attract and retain lawyers in selected locations across Australia; a Law and Justice Foundation of New South Wales research project to report on recruitment/retention of public legal service lawyers in RRR areas of New South Wales and factors likely to affect recruitment and retention; and a Professional Legal Training Program aimed at encouraging law graduates to work in rural, regional and remote legal centres for their professional legal training work experience placement.
Indigenous Justice Program
The Department provides funding through the Indigenous Justice Program for projects to reduce adverse contact of Indigenous Australians with the criminal justice system. The objective is to support safer communities by reducing Indigenous offending, and through that, reduce Indigenous victimisation and incarceration.
The Indigenous Justice Program will provide funding of $11.7 million in 2012‑13, of which, approximately $6.0 million has already been allocated to projects in regional and remote areas.
Improved Native Title Outcomes
The Government is committed to improving the native title system, and promoting leading practice and strong governance in native title agreements. Funding available to the native title system in 2012‑13 will include an additional $18.4 million provided as part of the $50.1 million in new money agreed by the Government in the 2009‑10 Budget. Included in this funding is approximately $541,000 for the Native Title Anthropologist Grants Program in 2012‑13 for projects to attract a new generation of junior anthropologists to native title work and encourage senior anthropologists to remain within the system.
Northern Territory Community Night Patrols
Community night patrols assist people at risk of either causing or becoming the victims of harm in order to break the cycle of violence and crime. The core functions of services are to provide basic services such as safe transportation, diversion from contact with the criminal justice system, and intervention to prevent disorder in communities. Community night patrols across 80 communities in the Northern Territory including both remote and regional areas. The Australian Government will provide $28.8 million in 2012‑13 towards this initiative. The value of community night patrols in increasing community safety in remote and regional Australia and reducing contact with the criminal justice system is well known.
Australia's Human Rights Framework
From 2010‑11, the Government is providing funding of $2.0 million over four years to non government organisations for the development and delivery of human rights education and engagement programs for the community. Projects funded under this Grants Program include initiatives providing human rights education in regional Australian communities.
The Government is also providing an additional $6.6 million over four years, from 2010‑11 to 2013-2014, to the Australian Human Rights Commission to enable it to expand its community education role and to provide information and support for human rights education programs, including in regional Australia. The Commission has developed an on-line social media platform that provides an interactive space for everyone in Australia to learn about human rights and engage in human rights discussion.
The Government is working in partnership with community organisations and the Australian Human Rights Commission to make sure education, information and engagement on Australia's new National Human Rights Action Plan are available across all Australian communities, including regional communities.
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