Legal Aid: Statement from ABA President Patrick O’Sullivan QC

The Australian Bar Association acknowledges the Federal Government’s recent $30 million injection to legal assistance services, to support families in crisis, but we believe it falls well short of the $200 million that was recommended by last year’s Productivity Commission Report.

The current situation is untenable, restricting legal assistance is counter-productive and has made the court system less efficient and more expensive. Long delays in the justice system are becoming increasingly common as a growing number of people are having to represent themselves in court.

The ABA challenges claims that legal aid cuts are unavoidable, and rather has serious concerns regarding the fundamental importance of procedural safeguards and due process, which can be provided with legal representation. The additional family violence funding is a first step into adequate and sustainable long term funding, which is urgently required for the entire legal assistance sector.

The fundamental tenet of the justice system, is that everyone has access to legal advice. If that is eroded there is real danger to the justice system and its reputation.