The early years to 1979

The early years to 1979

Public Solicitor's Office

Before 1928 only prisoners or very poor people could apply for legal aid for specific matters. In 1928 the government set up the Public Solicitor's Office to make legal aid more easily available. People were eligible if they did not own property worth more than 50 pounds. In practice, the office was under-resourced with refusal rates of over 50 per cent for most matters. 

Legal Aid Act 1961

As more people learnt about legal aid, demand increased. This created a backlog of cases in the Public Solicitor's Office. To provide more legal aid, the state government passed the Legal Aid Act 1961, which set up the Legal Aid Committee. This committee was run by the legal profession.

Legal Aid Act 1969

In 1969, the state government passed the Legal Aid Act 1969, which made the Legal Aid Committee responsible for civil and minor criminal cases and made the Public Solicitor responsible for serious criminal cases.

Australian Legal Aid Office (Commonwealth)

In 1974 the Commonwealth Government set up the Australian Legal Aid Office, which provided legal aid for federal law cases such as family law and bankruptcy. The Australian Legal Aid Office also helped people who the Commonwealth had a special responsibility for, such as people receiving social security and members of the armed forces.

Introducing the Legal Aid Commission of Victoria

The Legal Aid Commission of Victoria (LACV) was set up as an independent statutory body in 1978 under the Legal Aid Act 1978, and officially began operations in 1981. The LACV took over the functions of the Australian Legal Aid Office, the Legal Aid Committee and the Public Solicitor's Office.

As well as providing advice and representation, the LACV’s role included community legal education and advising the government on law reform. Its 11-member board included representatives from community legal centres, welfare groups and the legal profession.