Sydney’s HIV/AIDS Legal Centre (HALC) will be better placed to advise and advocate on behalf of people living with HIV after the Federal Government pledged to provide $20,000 annual funding for the next four years.
Flanked by Health Minister Tanya Plibersek, Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus made the announcement at HALC’s offices situated inside ACON’s Surry Hills headquarters on Tuesday morning.
HALC is a specialist community legal centre that assists people effected and affected by HIV and/ or Hepatitis C and also represents clients in court over a wide variety of problem areas, including discrimination, privacy, employment, migration and social security.
HALC principal solicitor Indraveer Chatterjee said the funding comes at a critical time for their services.
“We lost our principal solicitor a few weeks ago as we were unable to get funding for a national centre which we’d been running for four years,” Chatterjee told gathered reporters. “The $20,000 allows us to keep our core going and even that has unfortunately had funding difficulties.”
Dreyfus told the Star Observer it was incumbent upon state governments as well to do more to fund community legal centres while allowing them the independence to advocate, raise points of issue and suggest potential law reforms.
“Regrettably the governments of Queensland and NSW have sought to impose constraints on what community legal centres like HALC can do with state government funding,” he said. “And those constraints are asserting, wrongly, that community legal centres should not be free to advocate and should not be free to put forward law reform suggestions.
“Community legal centres like HALC are often the best-placed organisations in the community to identify what legal reforms are needed.”
Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus at the HIV/AIDS Legal Centre, Sydney (Photo: Serkan Ozturk)