Women’s Legal Services are an important and distinct part of the legal and social services system in Australia. Our sole focus is on assisting women with their legal issues and working towards achieving gender equality. We have decades of experience providing trauma-informed and integrated legal services, and our work is driven by the lived experiences of women who are victim-survivors of domestic, family, and sexual violence.
In 2023, we collected national turn away data over a 5-day period across all 13 Women’s Legal Services. 1,018 women who attempted to seek help from a Women’s Legal Service had to miss out on receiving assistance due to a lack of capacity. From this we can estimate more than 1,000 women per week, and more than 52,000 women per year, will have to be turned away from our services across Australia.
Without additional funding, Women’s Legal Services will continue to be forced to turn away thousands of women at risk of violence each year. We will not be able to provide women with the support they need to be safe and recover from violence and are deeply concerned about a lack of capacity to meet demand, which will continue to increase in the years ahead as victim-survivors of domestic, family, and sexual violence have increasingly complex needs.
We are seeking significant and sustainable ongoing funding for Women’s Legal Services to meet demand for assistance and ensure women and children can receive the help and support they need to be safe and to recover from violence.
Our funding asks
- An additional $10 million per year (plus indexation) under the National Legal Assistance Partnership (NLAP) to ensure all Women’s Legal Services can meet current levels of unmet demand (as recommended by the Australia Institute) and operate a consistent, best practice service delivery model.
- An increase to indexation under the NLAP that at a minimum equates to any increases in the CPI and required increases in wages and superannuation.
- An investment of $600,000 per year (plus indexation) to fund WLSA as a national peak body and enable the Women’s Legal sector provide a strong national voice on policy and law reform issues impacting women.
- A commitment to provide $4 million per year (plus indexation) nationally for all 13 Women’s Legal Services to establish or continue to operate a migration law practice, either via the NLAP or the Department of Social Services.
- An additional $4.6 million per year (plus indexation) to establish an additional 5 pilot sites for trauma-informed legal assistance for victim-survivors of sexual assault.
- An investment of $600,000 over two years (plus indexation) to pilot a world-first Hague Convention national legal service for women who have taken children overseas and are fleeing family and domestic violence.
- An additional $4 million per year (plus indexation) to increase access to gender-led and trauma-informed legal assistance for women with employment and discrimination law matters, including sexual harassment, either via the NLAP or the Department of Employment and Workplace Relations.
- An additional $5 million per year (plus indexation) under the NLAP to increase access to legal assistance with family law property matters.