Australian Bar Association President: “Legal assistance funding requires rethink to ensure sustainability”

The President of the Australian Bar Association, Will Alstergren QC, has highlighted the need for a complete rethink of legal assistance budgets to ensure its sustainability to provide equal and fair access of legal advice and assistance to all.

 

“The ABA holds significant concerns about Australia’s legal assistance budget being able to provide the necessary and adequate access to justice both now and into the future and that without a complete rethink of its funding, the rule of law hangs in jeopardy”, said ABA President Will Alstergren QC.

 

The comments were made following a speech by the UK Supreme Court’s Chief Justice, Lord Neuberger at the Australian Bar Association’s Biennial Conference in London and Dublin. Lord Neuberger discussed the similarities between the Australian and UK legal aid systems and the challenges that have been presented over the past 20 years.

Lord Neuberger said, 'many people [are faced] with the unedifying choice of being driven from the courts or having to represent themselves.'

“Despite the best intentions of both State and Federal Governments in Australia, they have been unable to commit to funding legal assistance to anywhere near the level required. Australia’s experience is not dissimilar to that of other common law jurisdictions including England and Ireland and presents an opportunity for all these nations to work together to identify other alternatives and solutions to this growing problem,” said Will Alstergren QC.

 

The Bar of England and Wales has also been voicing concerns about declining legal assistance funding and too believes the rule of law is at risk if the very people who need access to legal advice and legal protection cannot access it.

 

Will Alstergren QC said, “Lord Neuberger, the most senior member of the judiciary in the UK, has outlined very clearly why we so desperately need security and sustainability in our legal assistance budgets and what the consequences are without it. The Australian Bar Association will continue to advocate for legal assistance funding sustainability and looks forward to working with the UK and Irish Bars to explore alternative funding models and to making pro bono services more efficient.”

 

To view Lord Neuberger’s speech from the 2017 Australian Bar Association conference visit:

http://www.barcouncil.org.uk/media-centre/news-and-press-releases/2017/july/rethink-needed-on-availability-of-legal-aid/

 

To view the media release issued by the Bar Council of England and Wales: http://www.barcouncil.org.uk/media-centre/news-and-press-releases/2017/july/rethink-needed-on-availability-of-legal-aid/

 

Media enquiries: media@austbar.asn.au