Building a better justice system

Building a better justice system

We are committed to working on the justice system as well as within it.

To provide the best public service we need to look for ways to improve the justice system and the law. We are empowered to do this under the Legal Aid Act 1978.

Our expansive state-wide legal practice covering areas of family, criminal, civil and administrative law means that we are uniquely placed to make contributions on a broad range of social justice issues and law reform initiatives. Key issues for strategic advocacy reflect the priorities identified in our existing and future strategies which are informed by our statutory objectives and the National Partnership Agreement on Legal Assistance Services, our understanding of the legal, political and social landscape and, most importantly, our clients’ and consumers’ needs and circumstances.

The Legal Aid Act 1978 requires us to take innovative steps to reduce the need for our individual legal services. One way of achieving this is by pursuing improvements in law and policy that result in better outcomes for our clients and the community. The Productivity Commission has described strategic advocacy as a core activity for legal aid commissions as it can benefit those people affected by a systemic issue and improve access to justice for the community more broadly.

Our advocacy and law reform work includes:

  • focused casework or strategic litigation, such as running test cases to clarify points of law or challenging the way laws are applied in practice
  • policy and law reform work, including making submissions to inquiries and reviews
  • engaging with the media
  • advocating directly to government, the courts and private sectors to improve policies and processes
  • collaborating with other organisations on advocacy campaigns and law reform initiatives.

Sharing the stories of our clients

We believe that highlighting the client and consumer experience is the most powerful way to effect change. We strive to involve clients and consumers – people who are directly affected by laws and systems – more directly in telling their stories and sharing their expertise as a basis for our strategic advocacy.

We also acknowledge that we must take a collaborative approach to achieve systemic improvements for the benefit of the Victorian community. Effective information sharing and engagement with key partners is essential. We are committed to building stronger relationships by:

  • investing the time and energy to build relationships and working collaboratively because we understand that we are stronger when we work together
  • listening to stakeholders and decision-makers who have different views and perspectives.

Our strategic advocacy priorities

In 2019–20, we are:

  1. making sure change is shaped by the experience and expertise of people directly affected
  2. intervening early to promote social inclusion and prevent the escalation of legal and life issues
  3. contributing to a safe, fair, responsive, and accessible justice system with
  4. promoting rights and accountability in systems and processes that affect people's lives.

How we will achieve our 2019–20 priorities

  • Contributing to the Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System to inform changes that promote people’s rights and recovery and reduce the negative impact of the justice system.
  • Continuing our Care not Custody campaign to reduce the unnecessary and disproportionate criminalisation of kids in care.
  • Advocating for family law system reform to ensure the system responds better to family violence and is safe, inclusive and accessible for everyone who needs to use it.
  • Reducing the number of minor criminal matters in court through summary offences reform and improvements to police cautioning, charging and diversion processes.
  • Increased access to therapeutic programs such as the Assessment and Referral Court, the Drug Court and other effective non-custodial interventions.
  • Advocating for a National Disability Insurance Scheme that gives people with disability and their families the supports and services they want and need.
  • Promoting a fair and lawful social security system, including by challenging Centrelink's robodebt initiative.

Contact

If you are interested to find out more about our strategic advocacy work or collaborate on a project, please contact Senior Policy and Projects Manager Eleanor Jenkin on (03) 9269 0566 or Senior Policy Officer Renee Blight-Clark on (03) 9606 5276.

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