Victoria Legal Aid

Equal justice for a strong, healthy and resilient Latrobe Valley

Our report on how the justice system is struggling to meet the needs of the Latrobe Valley community when compared to Melbourne or other regional centres.

Background to the report

Ensuring that people have timely access to justice and support for complex needs is crucial in building strong and resilient communities.

The Gippsland Legal Assistance Forum (GLAF) has witnessed increasing demand and pressure on legal and non-legal services in the Latrobe Valley.

Across Victoria, people wait too long to have their matter heard in court or to access support services, but these delays are worse in the Latrobe Valley. The justice system is struggling to meet this community’s needs, increasing unfairness.

Communities in the Latrobe Valley deserve to be strong and resilient, with all members supported to contribute and participate in an equal way.

Key issues

Based on our experience, client stories, and data, the report indicates that the justice system is failing to meet the needs of the Latrobe Valley community, in particular when compared to Melbourne or other regional centres.

Issues cutting across the criminal, civil, family violence and child protection legal systems are impacting our clients’ access to justice in the region.

For a healthy and fair Latrobe Valley, everyone should have access to: easier legal help to reduce family violence; a local court system without unfair delays; support to care for their children; affordable and sage housing. Gippsland Legal Assistance.

For people experiencing family violence, limited access to family violence services, men’s behaviour change services or affordable housing may see them and their children continue to experience family violence and risk homelessness.

For parents whose children have been removed, the inability to access mental health, disability, or drug and alcohol services diminishes the likelihood of children returning to the family home and parents being able to care for their children in a safe and nurturing home environment.

For many court users, long delays in the local courts prevent timely resolution of legal problems and increase unfairness.

And for certain groups, including Aboriginal women and particularly those experiencing family violence, intersecting forms of discrimination combine to make it even harder to access justice and support.

We strongly support the attention being given to community-led regional planning and investment in the Latrobe Valley to promote economic and social growth. Still, we would like current efforts to better recognise the links between health and financial issues and people's legal problems.

When people miss out on early support and opportunities, it increases their vulnerability and risk of facing a legal problem. Legal problems can also cause health and social issues, such as stress-related illness, physical ill-health, relationship breakdown, loss of income, or financial strain.

Latrobe Valley planning must promote equitable growth by addressing the causes of disadvantage and legal problems. Gippsland Legal Assistance Forum.

For community-led planning and development to create sustainable and equitable growth, additional resources must be allocated to address legal need and the causes of entrenched disadvantage.

We would like to see legal need and access to justice issues accepted as a central part of the focus on economic development and community health and wellbeing in the Latrobe Valley. Government funding and policy decisions for the Latrobe Valley need to address access to justice explicitly.

Our report makes 12 recommendations for change. Ultimately this is about reducing rates of family violence, improving health, supporting families to care for their children, and providing safe housing to contribute to a healthier and happier community for everyone.

Gippsland Legal Assistance Forum logo

The Gippsland Legal Assistance Forum aims to promote access to justice for those who would not otherwise have the means to protect their legal rights or respond to claims about their legal responsibilities. It comprises Victoria Legal Aid, Djirra, Gippsland Community Legal Service and the Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service.

Logos of Victoria Legal Aid, Djirra, Gippsland Community Legal Service and the Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service

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.

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Reviewed 09 June 2022

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