THE Eastern Community Legal Centre is a step closer in its aim to set up a permanent base in the Yarra Ranges.
At a council meeting last week, councillors unanimously supported Cr Jeanette McRae's motion to lobby for extra funding to support ECLC's presence in the region.
ECLC offers free legal help to residents from its Boronia offices and through monthly outreach programs in Lilydale, Yarra Glen, Healesville and Yarra Junction.
A permanent Yarra Ranges base would mean better access to the services offered, which include assistance on a range of issues — from family disputes, traffic offences and more — for disadvantaged people unable to afford a private lawyer.
The manager of ECLC's outer east office, Denise Budge, said the council's endorsement was a great step in the right direction. "Having that formal support means it is not just us wanting to expand. I feel we are one step closer and this has renewed our drive to keep lobbying," she said. "We are thrilled and humbled by the support. We appreciate it."
Ms Budge said the monthly outreach services at the four Yarra Ranges locations were not enough to meet the needs of the area.
She said funding was needed to ensure a more permanent presence within the shire. "If people miss out on an appointment at the outreach day, they then have to travel to Boronia. It's a long way to go."
A needs-based analysis in 2010 identified Healesville as the most appropriate location for a permanent ECLC office. "But we are not locked in stone as to where it should be. We just know there should be a base in the Yarra Ranges. Before we set a location we need funding."
Set up 38 years ago, ECLC has been in Boronia for seven years. With nine staff at the Boronia office — a mix of full-time and part-time — it is hoped the Yarra Ranges office would have the capacity for an extra three or four staff.