The Sector Planning project

The Sector Planning project

The Sector Planning project was initiated by Victoria Legal Aid (VLA) in 2017 to develop a credible and accessible way to measure legal need and identify service gaps to support targeted, collaborative planning of Victorian legal assistance services.

Key drivers

Reviews into access to justice by the Productivity Commission in 2014 and Victorian Department of Justice and Regulation in 2016 found significant gaps in system-wide legal needs data and evidence-based legal service planning.

The National Partnership Agreement on Legal Assistance Services 2015–2020 requires evidence-based collaborative service planning.

The legal assistance sector; VLA and community legal centres, has highlighted the difficulty conducting robust legal needs analysis without an accepted methodology and tools and in the context of limited resources.

Project outputs

  1. A credible and accessible data-driven way to measure legal need and service gaps (the Model)
  2. A way to present the Model in an accessible digital form (the Data tool)
  3. An easy-to-use method to conduct legal needs assessment and undertake collaborative service planning (the Local Planning Process)
  4. Pilots in three regions: Gippsland, Whittlesea and the south-east metropolitan region

Data sources


  • VLA service data from the ATLAS database
  • CLC service data for the pilot sites from the CLSIS database  
  • The Law and Justice Foundation of New South Wales’ Need for Legal Assistance Service (NLAS) indicators dataset (based on the 2016 Australian census)
  • Publicly available datasets including health, demographics, crime, abuse and gambling.


  • self-administered online questionnaire, based on legal needs questionnaires from Legal Aid NSW’s Cooperative Legal Service Delivery program
  • observational research and interviews conducted by participants.

The project encountered some data limitations, including currency of the NLAS data (based on the 2016 census) and availability of some CLC data. While data gaps have had some impact, further iterations of the data tool will seek to address these deficits.  

Data analysis and tool

The Sector Planning project drew on complex data analytics and human centred design methodologies in the development of the Model and Data tool. VLA partnered with the Statistical Consulting Centre at the University of Melbourne to develop the Model and engaged external technical experts to assist with software and data visualisation for the Data tool.

The project sought to present data in an accessible and relevant form that legal assistance providers could use without specific training or software. After iterative user-testing, the final Data tool visualises data via interactive geographical maps at the LGA level, displayed through Tableau dashboards and workbooks


The Model, Data tool and Local Planning Process were trialled across three pilot regions – Gippsland, Whittlesea and the South-East metropolitan region. The pilots followed a four-stage process, establishing the parameters for a legal needs analysis tailored to the specific conditions and context of each region, and developing a plan for implementation to address identified legal needs and service gaps at a local level.


Examples of outcomes from the Sector Planning project for the pilot sites include:     

  • development of a formal agreement between the local CLC and VLA regional office for regular sharing of service data to enable ongoing collaborative planning for the region
  • a plan to improve the experience of clients in family violence intervention order matters by developing streamlined referral pathways and services across different providers
  • a goal to significantly reduce child protection removal rates in the region within five years through formal collaboration arrangements between community services, families, local legal services and DHHS.

Next steps 

  • Collaborative planning process in the Murray Mallee region, commencing March 2019.
  • Collaborative planning pilot for specialist CLCs, focusing on specific legal problems or socio-demographic groups.
  • Further development of the sector planning resources and tools to enable sharing across the legal assistance sector.


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