In 2021–22, we worked closely with our clients and partners to address the ongoing disruptions to the justice system that the pandemic has caused.
Our Chief Executive Officer, Louise Glanville, acknowledged the benefits to our clients of online ways of working, while welcoming the transition back to in-person services.
‘Our focus has always been to deliver high-quality services to our clients,’ she said.
‘Using online methods has meant that more people have been able to access our services and with greater flexibility.
‘But I’m pleased that we’re able to deliver services face-to-face again. There are some clients and situations where an in-person service is still the best fit.’
In 2021–22, we provided services to over 80,500 unique clients – an eight per cent increase on the previous financial year, although still not as high as in pre-pandemic years.
Many faced complex legal problems and experienced cultural barriers, discrimination, disability, mental health issues, or social and geographic isolation.
- 38 per cent were women, 62 per cent men, fewer than one per cent gender self-described, and fewer than one per cent gender diverse
- seven per cent identified as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander people
- 30 per cent were living in regional Victoria
- 28 per cent disclosed having a disability or mental illness
- 13 per cent were in custody, detention or psychiatric care
- 18 per cent were from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds
- four per cent required the assistance of an interpreter
- 35 per cent had no income
- 55 per cent were receiving some form of government benefit
- eight per cent were at risk of homelessness
- 13 per cent were younger than 19 years of age.
Early engagement for better outcomes
In 2021–22, we had a greater focus on pre-court advice and early engagement.
Over 10,000 people engaged with our Help Before Court program for criminal charges, while our Early Resolution Service provided pre-court legal advice and support for family violence matters.
Our Independent Family Advocacy and Support service has also helped to divert parents in the early stages of child protection away from the courts.
‘With enduring court backlogs and lengthy case wait times, our focus on prevention and early engagement and resolution is as important as ever,’ said Ms Glanville.
We enhanced our digital and data capabilities to improve our services. Our Legal Help phone line and webchat remained our key entry point for Victorians seeking legal assistance, while our new website was developed with clients in a user-centric way.
In our regional areas, we introduced a more contemporary management structure to improve availability of our services across Victoria. We also began expanding our Family Advocacy and Support Services to increase access to duty lawyers and other holistic support.
Advocating for change
We continued to advocate for transformational change in Victoria’s criminal justice and child protection systems to address the disproportionate and intergenerational harms caused to First Nations people.
We also co-designed the Lotjpa Independent Legal Service with the Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service to provide legal support to First Nations people engaging with the Yoorrook Justice Commission.
Preventing and eliminating sexual harassment in workplaces – including our own – was an important focus. We made two submissions recommending law reforms and worked with a group of Victorian legal professionals through Advocates for Change to promote workplace respect and safety in the legal sector.
We committed to more equitable briefing choices and introduced our first Gender Equality Action Plan to ensure staff of all genders feel safe, visible and included in our workplace. Our Disability Action Plan 2022–25 committed us to stronger actions on inclusion and equality for people with disability in Victoria.
We also introduced our new strategic plan and Outcomes Framework. They provide our strategic direction for the years ahead, centred around clients, the community, the legal assistance sector, laws and systems and an effective and sustainable Victoria Legal Aid.
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Reviewed 20 December 2022