A new full time lawyer will be employed at the Hume Riverina Community Legal Service (HRCLS), thanks to Federal and Victorian governments committing $321,500 over two years to support the delivery of frontline legal assistance services as a result of the public health crisis.

HRCLS Manager & Principal Lawyer Sarah Rodgers welcomed the funding which will boost the service’s capacity to support people impacted by COVID-19.

“It is pleasing to see the Federal Government and Victorian Government acknowledge that people in regional Australia need our support. They face many and varied legal problems which are compounded by isolation, cross border complexities and lack of resources and services,” Ms Rodgers said. “This also comes on the back of legal issues arising out of the bushfires in our region earlier in the year.”

Ms Rodgers said the funding would create a new full-time role to help meet the future demand.

“Our service is already struggling to meet the current demand, and we only expect that to increase in coming months. So this Government funding is really timely. It will definitely help us build more capacity within our team,” she said.

“We have seen an increase in family violence, family law matters and debt issues as a result of COVID, and we expect this demand to continue to rise in coming months. This funding will help us assist people facing these problems.”

Ms Rodgers said it was easy for legal problems to escalate and multiply when people were under stress.

“Getting early legal assistance helps ensure the problems don’t get out of hand and lawyers have more of a chance for a good resolution,” she said.

“The key message for our community is we are here to help. We encourage people to get in touch with us to get advice if they find themselves with legal problems, particularly because of COVID-19.”