I would like to acknowledge the Eora people who are the traditional custodians of this land. I would also like to pay respect to the elders past and present of the Eora nation and extend that respect to other Aboriginal people.
The Australian Bar Association is proud to represent the interests of nearly 6000 barristers throughout Australia and to promote the Bars' high quality specialist advocacy services.
As President of the ABA, I hope to continue the association’s great work to further promote the availability and quality of Australian barristers, and to act as a respected voice of reason and advocate for the wider community.
It is with the wider community in mind, that I consider the need to address the country’s legal assistance funding crisis as a significant issue to pursue over the next year. Australia’s legal assistance services are increasingly under-resourced leaving thousands of Australians without adequate access to quality legal advice and assistance. I applaud the work done by so many in the profession to encourage Government both State and Federal to increase funds. This includes the excellent efforts by the Independent Bars and the LCA. The frustration is that whilst there is universal agreement that more funding is needed especially by the respective Attorneys General and Shadow Attorneys General there is little appetite by Government to make this a priority. To break this impasse both Government and the community has to be better educated on the direct and indirect effects of funding and the true importance of it on the community. Also, a new and innovative approach needs to be taken to encourage the provision of increased funding. This will be the subject of an ABA specialist project in 2017.
The ABA will also be embarking on a campaign nationally to encourage corporate counsel and law firms to brief barristers early in litigation and about direct access briefing at the Bar. It is in everyone’s best interests (including the courts), to have barristers briefed more effectively and earlier in litigation. This serves to clarify the issues in dispute, the causes of action and assist the management of the entire dispute resolution process, empowering clients to make informed decisions, and potentially reduce overall legal fees.
The ABA also speaks for the voices often not heard. Over the past years, the ABA has highlighted some of the issues faced by Indigenous Australians through our work on Indigenous incarceration and constitutional recognition. These issues will continue to be priorities for the ABA in 2017, along with the discussion about diversity and inclusion, the future of the profession, opportunities in Asia, and access to justice. To find out more about these priority areas visit our committees page.
The ABA represents a profession that is proud of its independence and confident of the service it provides, committed to continual improvement in the skills of advocates who ably assist in the administration of justice.
The key areas in which the ABA represents barristers' interests are:
Over the next 12 months, I look forward to working with our members to improve access to justice, promote the quality and excellence available at the bar and continue to act as the national voice of barristers to build public understanding of the importance of the rule of law.
Will Alstergren QC