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Legal services receive NBN funding

Four legal centres have received Federal Government funding to connect regional and city lawyers through the National Broadband Network (NBN).

A total of $400,000 has been granted to North West Community Legal Centre (Devonport) in Tasmania; Hobart Community Legal Service; Welfare Rights Centre in South Australia; and Redfern Legal Centre in Sydney.

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The funding will be used to support NBN-based trials to increase access to legal assistance in regional areas of Australia.

North West Community Legal Centre will establish a remote legal assistance service in Smithton, Tasmania, in collaboration with Wyndarra Centre Inc and utilise the NBN to provide legal advice to far north west and west coast communities via Skype and other similar technologies.

Hobart Community Legal Service will use the NBN to facilitate lawyers providing pro bono advice to clients via video conferencing.

Welfare Rights Centre (SA) Inc will provide free legal services via NBN-enabled webcam communication. Meanwhile, Redfern Legal Centre will provide legal assistance for residents in Armidale by connecting lawyers in Sydney with community members via the NBN through video conferencing and the use of an NBN-ready case and file management system. "Through this program, the NBN will help to build a digital bridge over the legal divide between regional and metropolitan Australia, helping to provide better community legal services," said Nicola Roxon, attorney-general.

"These grants will challenge applicants to identify innovative and collaborative ways of providing legal assistance and sharing knowledge more effectively with regional community legal services."

The funding is part of a $4 million program announced in the 2011-12 budget to help improve legal services to regional Australia through the NBN and is a joint initiative with the attorney-general's department and the minister for broadband, communications and the digital economy.

Follow Stephanie McDonald on Twitter: @stephmcdonald0

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