The Law Council is conducting a comprehensive national review into the impediments to justice in Australia, focusing on those facing significant social and economic disadvantage in our community. This work will culminate in a final report at the end of November 2017, following a literature review and consultation process.
The Law Council believes that the system which delivers access to justice should be:
- just in the results that it delivers;
- accessible to the people who need to use it;
- responsive to their needs; and
- properly resourced.
The Law Council is concerned that many Australians simply ‘fall through the cracks’ of the justice system. If you’ve fallen on difficult times and you aren’t well off, too often you’re on your own, unable to get legal help you need.
Each year, one in four Australians will experience a legal problem substantial enough to require a lawyer. However, some sections of the community are much more vulnerable than others. Less than one-tenth of people account for approximately two-thirds of legal problems.
For many, their problems are left unresolved. Over time, these complaints can escalate, with serious consequences to people’s health, finances and relationships.
The Law Council has consistently expressed its strong concerns about the poor state of funding for legal assistance services in Australia, which are critical to providing access to justice for those who cannot afford a lawyer. In fact, this situation will probably get worse, not better.
The President of the Law Council of Australia, Fiona McLeod SC, said that “access to justice is a bedrock principle for our society and a means of protecting, promoting and defending the rule of law and human rights of all people. It is a core tenet of our modern democracy, yet unfortunately there are many who are missing out. A person’s formal right to justice and equal treatment before the law is of no value if he or she cannot effectively access the legal system or secure protection of basic rights. Whether it is the pressures upon court resourcing and long backlogs, lack of access to legal advice or representation, or laws and practices that compound unfairness, the inequity experienced by many can have a devastating impact upon their lives.”
This means that it is more important than ever to understand how our most vulnerable people experience access to justice issues, and what more needs to be done. That is why the Law Council will undertake The Justice Project in 2017.
What will the Project do?
- The Project will focus on those who face significant disadvantage and for whom justice is beyond reach.
- The Project will draw from, and supplement, the considerable body of work already undertaken in this area. It will illustrate the social and economic impacts and costs to the community of failing to deliver justice outcomes.
- The Justice Project aims to build the case for new justice strategies and law reform secured by appropriate funding. It will focus in particular on identifying ‘what works’ and why, based on existing evidence, highlighting the data gaps and providing constructive, informed recommendations for future action.
- The Law Council will examine the literature, and talk to people who have the necessary expertise, bearing these questions in mind.
- It expects to release a Consultation Paper, seek submissions and conduct targeted stakeholder consultations during the second half of 2017, before releasing a final Report at the end of the year.
Steering Committee Membership
Former Chief Justice of the High Court, the Hon Robert French AC, will chair the Steering Committee along with other experts.
See full list here.
Terms of Reference
You can view the full terms of reference of the Justice Project here.
End of November 2017.
Register your interest