The Environmental Defenders Office – ACT expresses its severe disappointment in the lack of additional funding for specialty Community Legal Centres in the 2015-2016 ACT Government Budget.
Following harsh cuts to funding by the Federal Government the Environmental Defenders Office faces financial uncertainty following no additional funding allocations on the 2015-2016 ACT Budget.
The lack of ACT Government funding has come after ACT Attorney General Simon Corbell’s recent comments that the Commonwealth and ACT governments have a shared responsibility for community legal centres, of which EDO ACT is one, and acknowledge that the advocacy work of EDOs plays an important role in ensuring a robust legal system.
“I think this is providing mixed messages to the ACT community about what the ACT’s Labor-Green Government stands for in terms of its environmental credentials and runs contrary to recommendations of the Productivity Commission. EDO ACT ensures developments in the ACT are in accordance with environment protection laws. It is about protecting community health and ensuring promised protections are actually delivered.”
Taylor said the EDO’s work relieves the burden on government agencies and courts by providing advice and preventing some cases from going to court “unadvisedly”.
“The simple fact is that our office will close before the end of the year”, EDO ACT CEO Camilla Taylor said. “This will bring an end to 20 years of accessible expert legal advice on environmental law provided freely to the ACT community”.
EDO ACT will undertake a review of its financial position following the ACT Budget, but is likely to require a substantial reduction in the services provided by the organization. This includes the full closure of its office located in the ACT by the end of the year.
The financial base of EDO ACT has been eroded through successive attacks from the Federal Government. The current inquiry into the tax deductibility status of environmental organizations currently being conducted by the Federal Parliament creates additional uncertainty over EDO ACT’s ability to fundraise.
“We are unsure what our situation will be going forward; but following this disappointing budget outcome we are further reliant on the generosity of the ACT Community in being able to provide advice and education in environmental legal matters and to support the volunteers that work with us” Ms Taylor said.
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