More than 60 people attended the launch at Australian Parliament House, where President of the Law Council, Morry Bailes, and former Chief Justice of the High Court, Robert French AC, outlined heart-breaking case studies and the personal suffering caused by a lack of access to justice.
“The Law Council believes that the legal system should be fair, just and accessible to the people. It should be responsive to their needs, and properly resourced,” Mr Bailes said.
“We should all expect and enjoy equality before the law. And the evidence shows that unfortunately this is not always the case.
“This is affecting not only people at the margins of our society but is felt across the whole population –including impacting our fiscal budgets, and in our lost potential as a nation.”
Since early 2017, the Australian Law Council has been conducting a national, comprehensive review into the state of access to justice in Australia for people experiencing significant disadvantage.
Focusing on 13 priority groups identified as facing significant social and economic disadvantage, the final report shines a light on justice issues for these groups by undercovering systemic flaws and identifying service gaps. It also highlights what is working well.
The identified groups include the disabled, people on low incomes, LGBTI+ people, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islands people, refugees and the homeless.
Some of the recommendations in the final report’s 22 chapters, totalling over 1400 pages, include:
- A full review of the resourcing needs of the judicial system;
- Significant government investment in legal assistance services required to address critical gaps (at a minimum $390 million per annum) and ensuring future funding through an evidence-based, sustainable and stable funding model;
- Funding and supporting multi-disciplinary, holistic servicing models which address people’s complex legal and non-legal problems;
- A COAG Access to Justice Framework to underpin a whole-of-government commitment to justice access;
- Implementing a National Justice Interpreter Scheme;
- Initiatives to ensure that all justice system actors are culturally responsive, informed, accessible and include needs of diverse groups.
The Law Council will continue to engage with government, parliament, the legal sector and the Justice Project’s many other stakeholders to advance its findings.