Thursday, 23 August 2018
The Law Society of Western Australia, as a constituent member of the Law Council of Australia, has been an active participant in The Justice Project, a national, comprehensive review into the state of access to justice in Australia for people experiencing significant disadvantage. It is one of the most extensive reviews of its type in 40 years.
The Justice Project Final Report released today at Australian Parliament House makes 59 recommendations based on 129 submissions of case studies. One of the recommendations, Justice Impact Tests, would consider the downstream impact on the justice system of new laws and policies. For example, changes in government policy will often increase demand for legal assistance, placing extra pressure on already-stretched services.
Focusing on 13 priority groups identified as facing significant social and economic disadvantage, today’s final report shines a light on justice issues for these groups by uncovering systemic flaws and identifying service gaps. It also highlights what is working well and why.
Other recommendations in the final report’s 22 chapters, totalling over 1000 pages, include:
- a full review of the resourcing needs of the judicial system;
- significant government investment in legal assistance services required to address critical gaps (at a minimum $390 million per annum) and ensuring future funding through an evidence-based, sustainable and stable funding model;
- a stronger focus on the needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and people in rural, regional and remote Australia;
- funding and supporting multi-disciplinary, holistic servicing models which address people’s complex legal and non-legal problems;
- a COAG Access to Justice Framework to underpin a whole-of-government commitment to justice access; and
- prioritising preventative and early intervention approaches as well as successful exit strategies – including safe and secure housing, mental health and disability services, youth engagement, family support, and rehabilitation.
Hayley Cormann, President of the Law Society of Western Australia, said that, “Every person should find equality before the law and have fair access to the legal system. The constructive, informed recommendations in the final report provide valuable guidelines for future action to better achieve this access and equality.”
The Law Society of Western Australia acknowledges the additional legal assistance funding Government has made in the area of domestic violence but continues to actively encourage State and Commonwealth governments to address the significant shortfalls in the renegotiation of the National Partnership Agreement on Legal Assistance 2015-20.
In the meantime, the Law Society of Western Australia will pursue the Justice Project’s recommendations with The Law Council of Australia, government, parliament, the legal sector and other stakeholders to advance its findings in Western Australia.
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About us: The Law Society of Western Australia is the peak professional association for lawyers in the State. The Society is a not-for-profit association dedicated to the representation of its more than 3800 members. The Society enhances the legal profession through its position as a respected leader and contributor on law reform, access to justice and the rule of law. The Society is widely acknowledged by the legal profession, government and the community as the voice of the legal profession in Western Australia.