Innovative Solutions to Access to Justice Crisis Needed

The Australian Bar Association (ABA) supports the work of the Law Council of Australia’s (LCA) national Justice Project which today [2 August 2017] moved into a consultation phase.

The Justice Project is a comprehensive national review into the state of access to justice in Australia with a focus on challenges for the most vulnerable members of society. A series of papers focused on 13 groups identified as facing significant social and economic disadvantage have been released.

The 13 groups are Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples; those with disability; older persons; people experiencing economic disadvantage; homeless persons; children and young people; prisoners and detainees; people who are trafficked or exploited; LGBTI people; recent arrivals to Australia; asylum seekers; people who experience family violence; and people in regional and remote areas of Australia.

ABA President Will Alstergren QC said: “Access to justice generally is at a crisis level. This has recently been identified by Lord Neuberger in the UK who has called on the UK government for more funding and consideration of the need for alternative funding models. The levels of unrepresented litigants coming before our Courts is alarming, as is the vast number of people in our society who are unable to obtain legal advice.”

“The outcomes of the Justice Project are likely to paint the most up-to-date picture of the lack of access to justice for many members of our community.”

Mr Alstergren said the ABA had been a vocal campaigner for support to the legal assistance sector; considered equal access to justice a basic right for all Australians; and was working on innovative solutions to the growing problem.

“Pro Bono work is now not enough nor is it ever going to be able to replace Legal Aid. It is time we recognised the problems as the Justice Project demonstrates and looked for solutions. The ABA is currently discussing with Government and the Courts a new model for data retention, new models for the most efficient ways of providing pro bono services and the feasibility of alternative funding models, for example, funding from the private sector,” Mr Alstergren said.

To learn more about the LCA Justice Project, including how to make a formal submission by 30 September and how to attend discussion sessions to be held Australia-wide, visit https://www.lawcouncil.asn.au/justice-project.

MEDIA ENQUIRIES: Mick Paskos 0412 201 044 or mpaskos@onmessage.com.au