WLST Funding Clarification ahead of the 2021-2022 Tasmanian Budget

Women’s Legal Service Tasmania (WLST) is grateful for the Commonwealth and Tasmanian Government commitment to provide continuing specialist community legal services to Tasmanian women.

In 2021-2022, WLST will receive a total of $1.02M from the Commonwealth through the National Legal Assistance Partnership (NLAP) and $128,250 from the Tasmanian Government to operate three offices around Tasmania – our office in Hobart supports our statewide telephone advice line, with our Burnie and Launceston offices operating as specialist Domestic Violence Units (DVUs). Our staff specialise in responding to all forms of violence experienced by women, including sexual harassment and sexual violence, and use an integrated multidisciplinary, trauma informed approach to service provision through our solicitors, our financial counsellor and our social worker.

In addition, the Tasmanian Government also provide us with $200,000 annually through Tasmania’s Action Plan for Family and Sexual Violence 2019-2022 to fund additional legal support to women in northern Tasmania through our Launceston office.  This funding runs through to the end of this current financial year.

WLST recognises that the Tasmanian Liberals have supported our service through both the Hodgman and Gutwein Governments.  Without this support, we would have been unable to deliver any casework or specialist family violence services to the women of Launceston and northern Tasmania, or been in a position to continue to offer the level of services that we do currently from the Hobart office.

WLST also acknowledges the support of the Financial Counselling Foundation, the Department of Social Services (Commonwealth) and the Solicitor’s Guarantee Fund who have granted one-off funding to allow us to provide additional specialist services to women seeking support through our service.

The amount of funding provided through the NLAP has not varied since 2015, which this financial year has resulted in having to lose a solicitor position from our Hobart office. This has meant that we have had no capacity to take on any new casework for clients who otherwise have nowhere else to turn. From April to June 2021, we have had to turn away more than 150 of these women. As a part of a budget submission to the Commonwealth to increase NLAP funding for women’s legal services across the country, the announcement of the Women’s Budget Statement during the Federal Budget in May indicated that $1.5M would be now made available to women’s legal services in Tasmania.

We look forward to hearing from the Tasmanian Government this week as they allocate the additional $1.5M for women’s legal services in Tasmania from the Women’s Budget Statement, as well as the additional $2.2M annual funding for Tasmania Legal Aid and the Tasmanian community legal centres that had been announced during the May state election.