Victoria Legal Aid

Building a better justice system

We are committed to pursuing improvements in law and policy that will benefit our clients and the broader community.

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 1978External Link .

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

The following principles guide our strategic advocacy:

  • As part of our ongoing commitment to upholding First Nations peoples’ right to self-determination, we will work collaboratively with Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations to inform our advocacy and reform work, and support truth-telling and treaty processes in Victoria.
  • Our advocacy is shaped by the experience and expertise of people directly affected.
  • We recognise that different aspects of identity – including race, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, age, and socioeconomic status – intersect to affect people’s experiences of discrimination and inequity.
  • We acknowledge and challenge structural racism to improve the justice system and related systems.

In 2022–23, our strategic advocacy priorities are to:

  • Work with Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations to promote reforms that address the over-criminalisation of First Nations peoples and their disproportionate representation in the youth justice and child protection systems.
  • Work with culturally and linguistically diverse organisations and communities to promote reforms that address the experiences of over-criminalisation and disproportionate involvement in the youth justice and child protection systems of these communities.
  • Advocate reforms that will reduce entry into the criminal justice system and address the harms of criminal justice system involvement, including deaths in custody. This work will focus on improved police practices and accountability, raising the minimum age of criminal responsibility, reducing social disadvantage, and bail, summary offences and sentencing reform.
  • Promote rights, accountability and consumer leadership for people experiencing mental health issues and people with disability.
  • Advocate for safe, accessible, and inclusive family law, family violence and child protection systems.
  • Advocate for gender equality and improve responses for victim-survivors of gendered violence (inclusive of LGBTIQ and gender diverse communities). This advocacy will focus on preventing and responding to sexual harassment, sexual offending, family violence, and improving victim-survivor participation in the criminal justice system.

We may also undertake strategic advocacy work in response to emerging or urgent systemic issues or to reform processes (for example, reviews, commissions, inquiries or legislative change) that are not identified in these priorities.

Disclaimer: The material in this print-out relates to the law as it applies in the state of Victoria. It is intended as a general guide only. Readers should not act on the basis of any material in this print-out without getting legal advice about their own particular situations. Victoria Legal Aid disclaims any liability howsoever caused to any person in respect of any action taken in reliance on the contents of the publication.

We help Victorians with their legal problems and represent those who need it most. Find legal answers, chat with us online, or call us. You can speak to us in English or ask for an interpreter. You can also find more legal information at www.legalaid.vic.gov.au

Reviewed 30 November 2022

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