Environmental Defenders Offices welcome $10.8 million funding pledge

Media Statement 15 June 2016

Environmental Defenders Offices of Australia (EDOs of Australia) welcome the ALP’s commitment to restore funding to EDOs by providing $10.8 million over four years, as announced on Wednesday 15 June 2016.

Jo Bragg, convenor of EDOs of Australia, said: “EDOs across Australia welcome the ALP’s commitment to reinstate federal funding to our non-profit community legal centres, which was abruptly withdrawn in late 2013.

“The ALPs policy commitment recognises the hard work of EDOs that together have been providing public interest environmental and planning law services to the Australian community for over 30 years.

“The ALP Policy mentions the importance of EDOs in ensuring Australian environmental laws are complied with by both corporations as well as governments. It is vital Australia’s environmental laws are respected and that is why we exist.

“EDOs provide a vital service to the Australian community, each year providing access to justice for thousands of Australians who live in cities, coastal areas and regional and remote communities who simply could not afford legal help otherwise.

“EDOs are a function of democracy, as well as providing legal advice and court representation, we contribute our expertise to law reform so that Australia has just laws that protect the environment. We also provide legal education and outreach services that assist the community to participate in and contribute to environmental decision-making and management across the country.

“EDOs also welcome the commitment by the Greens yesterday in their Access to Justice Package to restore $14.5 million funding for EDOs. This commitment also recognises the vital services provided by EDOs to the Australian community.

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Contact Jo Bragg, Convenor EDOs of Australia, 0428 104476

BACKGROUND

Shadow Environment Minister Mark Butler (with Shadow Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus QC) late on 14 June 2016 announced funds of $10.8 million over 4 years for Environmental Defenders Offices. Senator Nick McKim of the Greens earlier on 14 June announced $14.5 million for EDOs over 4 years as part of their Access of Justice Package.

ABOUT EDOs

EDOs of Australia are non-profit community legal centres specialising in public interest environmental and planning law.  Each office is part of the National Association of Community Legal Centres. We employ professional lawyers to ensure the best possible services to the community. We are a highly professional multi-disciplinary legal service.

EDOs have existed in the Australian legal landscape, providing vital legal services, for over 30 years.  In 2013, Federal funding, substantially increased at your initiative to EDOs around Australia, was abruptly terminated, ending nearly 20 years of bipartisan support for these community legal services. EDOs were also particularly excluded from recent restoration of Federal funding for other community legal centres.

EDOs of Australia is a critical partner of government (the legislature, executive and judiciary) in achieving a sustainable environment, empowering the community and upholding the rule of law. There is no other organisation in the country that achieves the breadth and depth of work for Australians in these respects than EDOs. 

EDOs are located at:

 

AUSTRALIAN CAPITAL TERRITORY GPO Box 574, Canberra 2601, T: (02) 62433460, E: edoact@edo.org.au

NEW SOUTH WALES 5/263 Clarence St, Sydney NSW 2000, T: (02) 9262 6989, E: edonsw@edonsw.org.au

NORTHERN TERRITORY GPO Box 4289, Darwin NT 0801, T: (08) 8981 5883 edont@edont.org.au

NORTHERN QUEENSLAND 1/ 96-98 Lake St, Cairns QLD 4870 T: (07) 4031 4766, E: edonq@edonq.org.au

QUEENSLAND 30 Hardgrave Road, West End QLD 4101, T: (07) 3211 4466, E: edoqld@edo.org.au

SOUTH AUSTRALIA Level 1, 182 Victoria Square, Adelaide SA 5000, T: (08) 8359 2222 E: edosa@edo.org.au

TASMANIA 131 Macquarie Street, Hobart TAS 7000, T: (03) 6223 2770, E: edotas@edo.org.au

WESTERN AUSTRALIA Suite 4, 544 Hay St, Perth WA 6000, T: (08) 9221 3030, E: edowa@edowa.org.au

Range of Services The work of skilled and experienced EDO staff improves access to environmental justice to thousands of Australians every year through:

  • Delivering community workshops and producing easy to understand guides to environmental laws, to enable participation in environmental management and decisions;
  • Providing free or low cost legal advice and, where necessary, representation in litigation; and
  • Providing expert input to government and non-government enforcement and law reform programs that are designed to protect natural resources, including water supplies and productive agricultural land.

There is a particular demand for EDO services in rural and remote communities, where access to justice is uniquely compromised.  Our work assists Aboriginal land owners concerned that their cultural heritage would be destroyed or whose health has been affected by contaminated water supplies, families affected by air pollution resulting from open-cut mining and farmers whose livelihoods are threatened by the many complicated issues resulting from the impacts of resource extraction projects. We are often the only service in Australia that can provide the impartial expert advice and assistance such members of the Australian community need and deserve. For a snap shot see, Environment Matters http://www.naclc.org.au/resources/NACLC_EDO_WEB.pdf 

Value of EDOs’ work

EDOs are an integral part of providing access to justice in Australia on environmental matters. The costs of accessing environmental legal services from the private profession in Australia are prohibitive to the community. The vital role played by EDOs over many years is reflected in the Senate committee report on Australia’s Environment[1] and recognised by the Productivity Commission.[2]



[1] Commonwealth of Australia (June 2015). Senate Environment and Communications References Committee report on Australia’s Environment.  Parliament House, Canberra. http://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary Business/Committees/Senate/Environment and Communications; Clause 3.56 and elsewhere.

[2]Australian Government (December 2014 ) Access to Justice Arrangements (p711-13), http://www.pc.gov.au/inquiries/completed/access-justice/report