We have welcomed the announcement of funding to support the large number of people needing to access the justice system in Victoria, addressing COVID-19 related delays and providing early intervention and prevention services.
Victoria Legal Aid CEO Louise Glanville said, ‘Victorians continued relying on legal assistance during the pandemic, and we’re continuing to provide these services, to deliver the support people need to have fair and timely access to justice.’
‘The commitments in this budget will allow the whole of the justice system to continue to respond to the increasing demand, though funding front line services and community legal centres, offering more pathways and therapeutic responses such as the Assessment and Referral Court (ARC), Koori Court and Drug Courts, and providing better court services in regional areas.’
We’ve developed innovative services so we can help people at an earlier stage in the justice process. Funding to continue our Help Before Court program for criminal matters in the Magistrates’ Court and the Early Resolution Service for people with family violence legal matters will ensure Victorians can still access these services.
‘These early intervention programs can help resolve matters before people go to court,’ said Ms Glanville.
‘People who do need to go to court can better prepare, ensuring that each court event is meaningful and helps progress or resolve the case, their experience is better, and the operation of the courts are smoother.’
We are also pleased to see investment in the new court precinct in Bendigo, the creation of a weekend online Children’s Court, the statewide expansion of ARC and the Women and Mentoring Program, which matches women at risk of offending with supportive female mentors. These are all important initiatives to improve people’s access to tailored and appropriate services, across the state.
In addition to specific initiatives, this budget allows Victoria Legal Aid to meet core service demand and support the courts to address the pandemic backlogs in the short term while we continue to work with the government to resolve our ongoing financial challenges through a demand-based funding model.
Legal aid provides a crucial safety net for people who can’t afford a lawyer, are struggling or facing hardship, particularly those affected by family violence, addressing issues early on and helping people understand their rights and options.
We look forward to continuing to work with the government, courts, the legal assistance sector and other justice sector partners as the funding in this budget is distributed across the system to ensure we can all provide fair and accessible services for our community.
Reviewed 16 May 2022