An Innovative Grants Program which has been helping improve justice for disadvantaged people living in New South Wales for over 20 years has been axed due to a lack of core funding.
The Board of the Law Justice Foundation of NSW announced the program cancellation earlier this month, acknowledging that more than $4.6 million had been filtered into projects to help people with disability, women experiencing domestic violence, young people, people with mental health problems and Indigenous Australians over the last two decades.
Chair of the Foundation Paul Stein AM QC is most disappointed at hearing the news.
“The cancellation of the Grants Program is a huge loss not only for the justice sector but also for the people of New South Wales,” he says.
“This long-running program has supported numerous innovative projects which have had a direct impact on the ability of everyday people to exercise their legal rights.
He says the program also provided many insights into what worked and what didn’t work in delivering legal assistance to NSW residents.
“The Grants Program has been a way to support community-driven initiatives to overcome barriers to justice and this is now lost.”
He says the lack of funding can also put the Foundation into question.
“Without proper funding, the very existence of the Law and Justice Foundation and its people-focused research to improve access to justice will be threatened and its enormously valuable contribution to the community of NSW may also be lost.”
Executive Officer of the Physical Disability Council of NSW, Serena Ovens says it is an “incredibly disappointing situation".
“The loss of such a huge amount of grant funding will significantly impact the ability for people with disability to get the help they need when in contact with the justice system, and ensuring they are equally represented and have a voice in ensuring their rights are preserved.”
Ms Ovens recognises the importance programs such as the Innovative Grants Program has in educating people with disability on their own rights, as well as achieving fair justice for all.
“It is a fact that many people, particularly those with intellectual disability may need assistance to navigate the justice system, and not be wrongly incarcerated due to their inability to speak on their own behalf, or to be fully aware of what they may be accused of, and how to protect themselves.”
Existing grants will be unaffected by this announcement.