What is right and what is wrong and who gets to decide?

Is it ok to build a new coal mine that will damage the environment if it brings jobs? What if a new housing development will wipe out a population of koalas?

Access to justice is the cornerstone of a fair and just society like ours. We know it’s crucial to ensure an equitable and transparent society.

Everyone in Australia has the right access to legal support when they need it. And until recently that included access to legal experts who specialised in environmental law.

But recently both Queensland and Australian Governments defunded the very organisations charged with providing this legal support.

The Environmental Defenders Office Queensland has had all of its State and Federal Government funding cut without warning, but they’re fighting back with a crowdfunding campaign to raise more than $100,000 before 30 June.

There are contentious coal, gas and other projects in the pipeline as well as developments on the Great Barrier Reef. At the same time, farmers are fighting the expansion of coal seam and other gas extraction and both community groups and everyday people are seeking support for objecting to developments in inappropriate and sensitive environments.

The work of the Environmental Defenders Office helps landholders, individuals and community groups to understand and act on their legal rights. This in turn protects the natural environment and communitiesagainst the impacts of major coal mines and massive coastal developments.

Jo Bragg is the Principal Solicitor at EDO Queensland. She’s worked with EDO for more than 20 years.

“We’re committed to keep providing these services for free in the interests of access to justice,” she said. “However, without government funding our hands are severely tied.”

“To keep operating, we need funds for staff wages, rent, internet, and telephone – the basic essential costs to keep the access to justice service alive.”

“This will ensure we can keep our community legal advice line operational, provide free legal information seminars and advocate on urgent law reform such as protecting long-standing community legal rights to object to proposed mines,” Jo said.

The Environmental Defenders Office is the only organisation in Queensland which helps ordinary people with advice and support for environmental legal matters.

“If there is no free legal support available it will mean ordinary people seeking environmental justice will have no one to turn to. They will effectively be locked out of the legal system,” Jo said.

To learn more about EDO’s work or to give to their citizen-funded campaign, visit crowdfundi.ng/EDO.

Image courtesy Jude Garlick.

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