Investment in legal aid protects rights and creates a fairer, safer Victoria

Investment in legal aid protects rights and creates a fairer, safer Victoria

Thursday, 17 March 2016

Extra investment in legal aid will safeguard the rights of Victorians and increase access to justice for the tens of thousands of people who are missing out on the help they need, says Victoria Legal Aid.

In its submission to the Victorian Government’s Access to Justice Review, Victoria Legal Aid details the challenges of helping clients in a justice system where there is crushing demand and inadequate funding.

It details why governments need to consider how new laws and policies will further push up the demand for legal help in areas such as child protection, family violence and summary crime.

Legal aid safeguards people’s rights to a fair process and the protection of the law and enables them to have a real say in the resolution of their legal problems

Managing Director Bevan Warner

The submission makes 29 recommendations to boost access to justice in Victoria.

It shows that Victoria’s legal assistance sector is underfunded compared to New South Wales. It calls for an additional investment of $72 million annually, including $42 million from the Victorian Government.

The submission says the additional funding would enable Victoria Legal Aid to:

  • reduce the crushing demand on overstretched and time pressured duty lawyer services
  • cope with increased demand caused by policy, law or other social changes
  • reduce barriers to financial eligibility for legal aid
  • expand out of hours and weekend access to the Legal Help telephone service and a new web-chat service
  • expand specialist civil and family law services particularly in regional areas and outer suburban growth corridors
  • ensure private lawyers are appropriately paid for the time required to complete high quality work and to encourage experienced lawyers to do legal aid work.

The submission details the challenges in the Magistrates’ Court where overcrowding in prison and police cells and increasing family violence cases is leading to a highly pressured system, with increased costs and delay.

It calls for more investment in courts and programs – such as the Drug Court, Koorie Court and the Neighbourhood Justice Centre – which have been proven to reduce re-offending.

Mr Warner says a failure to invest in legal aid costs the taxpayer more in the long run in other parts of the justice or welfare systems.

‘Access to justice is the glue that binds our democracy and civil society together,’ Mr Warner says. ‘Legal aid does not just benefit the person who gets it but also the wider community. Investing in legal aid creates a fairer, safer society.’

10 ways to increase access to justice for all Victorians

Our Access to Justice submission puts forward 10 ‘touchstones’ that will increase access to justice for all Victorians. Read more about how reforms can help deliver improved access to justice for all Victorians

Read our submission

Read Victoria Legal Aid’s full submission:

Submission to the Access to Justice Review (pdf, 1.92 MB)

Submission to the Access to Justice Review (docx, 1.52 MB).

More information 

Our Strategy 2015–18 sets out our strategic directions that guide us in working with our partners in the justice and community sector to improve the way Victorians access justice. They enable us to deliver the most appropriate legal services at the right time, based on client needs.

Media

If you have a media enquiry please contact:

Janine Sim-Jones
Phone: 0402 715 381
Email: janinesj@vla.vic.gov.au

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