Attorney-General's: Investing in Regional Growth—2016-17

The Attorney-General's portfolio supports development, sustainability and resilience in regional Australia through a diverse range of measures across the portfolio, including in civil and criminal justice and disaster relief and recovery initiatives.

Many Australian Government funded family relationship and legal assistance services are located in regional areas. All Regional Family Dispute Resolution services provided under the Families and Communities Programme for separated and separating families are located in regional Australia.

A number of Community Legal Centres provide state-wide legal assistance services, including outreach services, to regional and remote areas. Community Legal Centres located in metropolitan areas that receive Commonwealth funding also provide targeted specialist assistance in both metropolitan and regional areas through outreach work, 1800 and 1300 telephone advice lines and national websites.

Twelve new specialist domestic violence units and four new health justice partnerships are being established to improve legal assistance services for women experiencing domestic violence. Six out of the twelve new specialist domestic violence units are in regional areas, ensuring that women facing isolation compounded by distance will be able to get help. Indigenous women, and those living in migrant communities, will also receive targeted assistance. The Women's Safety Package includes $15.0 million over three years for the legal assistance sector, to help women to access legal assistance safely.

There are eight Indigenous legal assistance providers nationally which deliver services from 75 permanent locations, as well as court circuits, bush courts and outreach locations.

The Attorney-General's portfolio is responsible for a number of crime prevention grant funding programmes available to Australian, State, Territory and local government bodies and not-for-profit organisations. Out of 100 active crime prevention projects nationwide, 33 are currently being delivered in regional Australia.

The Attorney-General's portfolio provides natural disaster relief and recovery support to communities throughout Australia. This year the Australian Government's Disaster Recovery Payment and Disaster Recovery Allowance initiatives assisted communities recover from the Waroona bushfire in Western Australia.

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Current Initiatives

Families and Communities Programme—Family Law Services

In 2016-17 the Australian Government will provide $162.0 million for the Family Relationships Services Programme. Of this, $156.0 million will be provided for a range of post separation services under the family law stream of the Families and Children activity of the Families and Communities Programme. 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/post separation cooperative parenting;
  • supporting children after separation; and
  • counselling.

The family law services stream aims to provide alternatives to formal legal processes for families which are separated, separating or in dispute to improve their relationships in the best interests of children. The services are located throughout Australia, including regional areas.

Women's Safety Package

On 24 September 2015, the Prime Minister and the Minister for Women announced the Women's Safety Package (the Package). The Package delivers $100.0 million in funding for a number of measures, including $15.0 million over three years for legal assistance services. This funding will be used to run a nationwide pilot initiative, delivering targeted services to help women experiencing domestic violence.

In total, the Australian Government has determined twelve service locations to establish a new specialist domestic violence unit, with four of these also building a health justice partnership with a hospital or health centre. Locations are spread across all States and Territories and will include six regional and remote areas including the Dubbo and Mallee regions, the Kimberley, Townsville, Alice Springs and North-west Tasmania.

State/TerritoryRegionFunded Service ProviderThree-year Funding
Specialist domestic violence units
New South Wales Dubbo Western New South Wales Community Legal Centre $1.11m
Victoria Mallee Murray Mallee Community Legal Centre $1.05m
Queensland Townsville North Queensland Women's Legal Service $1.05m
Western Australia Kimberley Kimberley Community Legal Service $1.2m
Tasmania North-West Women's Legal Service Tasmania $1.05m
Specialist domestic violence units and health justice partnerships
Northern Territory Alice Springs Central Australian Women's Legal Service $1.35m

National Partnership Agreement on Legal Assistance Services

The new National Partnership Agreement on Legal Assistance Services commenced on 1 July 2015 and will deliver $1.3 billion in Commonwealth funding to legal aid commissions and community legal centres over the next five years.

Under the National Partnership Agreement, people residing in rural or remote areas are priority clients, to be considered as part of planning and targeting of legal assistance services.

Legal Aid

In the first half of 2015-16, 2369 or 14 per cent of grants of legal aid grants for Commonwealth matters were received by persons who reside in rural and remote areas. This percentage is lower than previous years due to a change in the way rural and remote areas have been reported under the new National Partnership Agreement on Legal Assistance Services.

Community Legal Centres

In the first half of 2015-16, 1632 or 20 per cent of community legal centre representation services were received by persons who reside in rural and remote areas. This percentage is lower than previous years due to a change in the way rural and remote areas have been reported under the new National Partnership Agreement on Legal Assistance Services.

Indigenous Legal Assistance Services

The Indigenous Legal Assistance Programme funds Indigenous legal assistance providers to provide culturally appropriate, accessible legal assistance and related services to Indigenous Australians so that they can fully exercise their legal rights as Australian citizens. There are eight Indigenous legal assistance providers nationally which deliver services from 75 permanent locations, as well as court circuits, bush courts and outreach locations.

Crime Prevention Funding Programmes

The Attorney-General's Department manages a number of crime prevention grant funding programmes including the Schools Security Programme, and funding under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 which includes the Safer Streets Programme. Approximately $8.5 million is being provided to organisations currently delivering projects in regional Australia.

Programmes under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 address crime and anti-social behaviour by providing funding for community crime prevention and law enforcement. For example, the Safer Streets Programme is designed to provide funding for eligible organisations to install security related-infrastructure such as closed-circuit television cameras or lighting, or other crime prevention through environmental design initiatives in areas experiencing problems with criminal or anti-social behaviour.

The Schools Security Programme is funding government and non-government schools across Australia facing a risk of attack, harassment or violence stemming from racial or religious intolerance to install lighting, fencing and closed-circuit television cameras and to employ security guards.

Natural Disaster Relief and Recovery Arrangements

Every year bushfires, floods, storms and other devastating natural disasters cause significant loss and damage in communities across Australia that require recovery efforts from individuals, communities, and State, Territory and local governments. Over the past five years Australia has endured natural disasters with increasing frequency and magnitude. In 2016-17, the Australian Government will continue to support communities to recover from natural disasters through the joint Australian, State and Territory Government Natural Disaster Relief and Recovery Arrangements.

The Natural Disaster Relief and Recovery Arrangements are a comprehensive national policy and financial framework for disaster recovery. Under the Natural Disaster Relief and Recovery Arrangements, the Australian Government provides funding assistance to State and Territory governments to alleviate the financial burden of providing emergency and recovery assistance to disaster-affected individuals, communities, small businesses and primary producers, including for the restoration or replacement of essential public assets, and community recovery packages to restore social networks, communities' functioning and community facilities.

The Natural Disaster Relief and Recovery Arrangements has been made available to individuals, communities, small businesses, primary producers and the not-for-profit sector for a range of natural disaster events in Australia during 2015-16.

Disaster Recovery Payment

The Disaster Recovery Payment is a one-off, non-means tested payment to eligible Australian residents who have been adversely affected by a major disaster either in Australia or overseas. It is activated if the Minister for Justice determines the impact of a disaster on individuals and families requires Australian Government assistance in addition to that provided under standard recovery assistance through the Natural Disaster Relief and Recovery Arrangements. In making this decision, the Minister for Justice will consider the number of individuals affected, the extent to which the nature or extent of the disaster is unusual, overall impact on a community, and the full range of Australian, State or Territory Government assistance measures available to the community. The Disaster Recovery Payment provides financial assistance of $1,000 for eligible adults and $400 for eligible children.

During 2015-16, Disaster Recovery Payment has been made available to communities in:

  • New South Wales in response to the east coast storms and flooding;
  • Queensland in response to tropical cyclone Marcia;
  • Northern Territory in response to tropical cyclone Lam;
  • Western Australia in response to the Waroona bushfire; and
  • South Australia in response to the Sampson Flat and Pinery bushfires.

Disaster Recovery Allowance

The Disaster Recovery Allowance provides short-term income support to eligible individuals who experience a loss of income as a direct result of a disaster.

When available, the Disaster Recovery Allowance assists employees, small business persons and farmers who experience a loss of income as a direct result of a major disaster. It is paid at a rate equivalent to the Newstart or Youth Allowance for a maximum of 13 weeks. If, after 13 weeks, the person is still suffering hardship from a loss of income, they will be able to test their eligibility for a longer-term income support payment such as the Newstart Allowance.

During 2015-16, the Disaster Recovery Allowance has been made available to communities in:

  • New South Wales in response to the east coast storms and flooding;
  • Queensland in response to tropical cyclone Marcia;
  • Western Australia in response to tropical cyclone Olwyn and the Waroona bushfire; and
  • South Australia in response to the Sampson Flat and Pinery bushfires.

National Emergency Management Projects

The Australian Government's National Emergency Management Projects grant programme funds emergency management projects of national significance. The programme supports measures to strengthen communities, individuals, business and institutions to minimise the adverse effects of disasters in Australia. Projects are designed to improve the ability to prevent, prepare for, respond to and recover from disasters across social, economic, environmental and governance elements. While projects must achieve national outcomes, their application can benefit regional areas, as well as metropolitan, rural and remote areas.

Natural Disaster Resilience Programme

The Natural Disaster Resilience Programme supports the States and Territories to deliver initiatives which contribute to safer, sustainable communities and support them withstand the effects of natural disasters. This programme has previously provided States and Territories with $26.1 million per annum to invest in disaster resilience projects. The projects are prioritised by the States and Territories in accordance with state-wide natural disaster risk assessments to ensure they effectively meet the needs of local communities. $52.2 million has been offered to the States and Territories for the 2015-16 and 2016-17 financial years.

National Bushfire Mitigation Programme

The National Bushfire Mitigation Programme is providing $15.0 million over three years to the States and Territories to implement long-term bushfire mitigation strategies ($13.5 million through the Attorney-General's Department) and improved fuel reduction activities ($1.5 million through the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources). The National Bushfire Mitigation Programme is helping to strengthen community preparedness and resilience to bushfires.

Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse

The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse undertakes a variety of activities in regional areas.

Private sessions, in which survivors of child sexual abuse in an institutional context share their story of abuse with a Commissioner, continue to be held around Australia. Since May 2013, the Royal Commission has conducted private sessions in all capital cities and 16 regional locations. These sessions allow the Royal Commission to bear witness to the abuse suffered, including by those living in regional Australia.

To date, two public hearings have been held in regional locations—in Rockhampton (Queensland) and Ballarat (Victoria).

Community forums, led by Commissioners, have been conducted in 13 regional locations. Royal Commission staff have also met with local services in 27 regional and remote areas. These activities improve awareness of the Royal Commission's work, and increase accessibility for those who wish to provide information or otherwise engage with the Royal Commission.

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