Record demand for legal aid

By Rebecca Fraser
A CRANBOURNE community legal service has experienced record demand since opening its doors in November.
The Peninsula Community Legal Centre in High Street provides free services to those who live, work or study in Casey and Cardinia.
The centre offers telephone advice and appointments from its Cranbourne office, as well as having a solicitor regularly visiting outreach venues in Hampton Park, Beaconsfield and Pakenham.
Clients also have access to the centre’s family law, child support and consumer affairs programs.
The centre’s chief executive officer, Helen Constas, said the centre had experienced high demand since opening their Cranbourne office in November.
“Many clients have sought assistance with family law issues around separation, child contact and property matters.
“We have also assisted a number of clients with debt-related issues and other civil matters, such as neighbourhood disputes and insurance complaints,” she said.
In September, Attorney General Rob Hulls announced funding for the long-awaited centre that is one of four Victorian facilities to receive funding.
Following the announcement, Mr Hulls said the new centres would be based in areas that had large numbers of disadvantaged and vulnerable people, populations in excess of 200,000 and a significant need for more legal centres.
Cranbourne MP Jude Perera said he had been lobbying for a legal centre following concerns from residents about the lack of free, qualified, face-to-face legal advice in the area.
Ms Constas said the service had been conscious of the need for increased free legal services in the Cranbourne area, especially for those disadvantaged by low income and special needs.
Prior to the office’s opening, solicitors from the Peninsula Community Legal Centre came to Cranbourne once a week but this could not keep up with community demand.
She also extended her thanks to Hampton Park Community Centre, Beaconsfield Neighbourhood Centre and Living and Learning in Cardinia for enabling the centre to provide outreach services at their venues.
Due to the increased demand, the centre hopes to extend their opening hours in 2006.
The Cranbourne office is located in Suite 12, Bella Centre, 33-39 High Street, Cranbourne. Telephone: 5995 3722.
It is initially open Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 9am until 5pm and Tuesdays from 6.30pm with a view to provide services on another weeknight in the near future. For other enquiries, please contact the centre’s head office on 9783 3600 or 1800 064 784.