Indigenous Legal Needs Project

Indigenous Legal Needs Project

We partnered with the Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service and James Cook University in a research project investigating the civil and family law needs of Indigenous Victorians.

The Victorian research is based on focus groups with Indigenous participants and interviews with legal and related stakeholders. The eight communities selected to reflect urban, regional and rural communities were Bairnsdale, Bendigo, Fitzroy, Framlingham, Heidelberg, Robinvale, Shepparton and Swan Hill.

Over 70 stakeholder organisations servicing or working within the nominated Victorian communities were interviewed to explore the experiences, perspectives and understandings of those providing legal or related services.

Key findings

Housing was the most prevalent legal issue, with 41.8 per cent of focus group participants having experienced a housing issue, particularly in relation to tenancy.

The most common civil and family legal problems reported by participants were housing, credit/debt, discrimination and disputes with neighbours.

Other priority areas identified were social security, child protection, victims compensation and Wills. While these types of legal problems were not as prevalent as the problems listed above, the consequences of these problems for individuals were quite serious.

There was a low level of participants seeking help for their legal problem. For instance:

  • just over one in five Indigenous participants who had a housing problem sought legal advice or assistance
  • slightly over one in 10 who had a discrimination or social security problem sought legal advice or assistance.

The Indigenous Legal Needs Project video summarises the findings of the report.

Recommendations

The report recommends

  • an increased focus on resourcing of Indigenous family and civil law services across the state
  • the need to inform and educate people about civil and family law and their legal rights, for instance through community legal education
  • criminal and civil problems tend to occur together. Early intervention for legal problems, holistic service delivery and improved collaboration between different service providers would be able to take into account the complexity of some legal issues
  • service approaches should be flexible and Indigenous clients should be able to approach both Indigenous and non-Indigenous service providers
  • service providers need to ensure their services are culturally appropriate and engage directly with Aboriginal communities.

More information

The Indigenous Legal Needs Project website has information about the project undertaken in Australia.

See ILNP reports and papers for the Indigenous Legal Needs Project VIC Report (2013).