Justice Project Update: 31 August 2017
As part of the consultation phase of the Justice Project, Law Council President, Ms Fiona McLeod SC, and Law Council representatives are attending a range of meetings with community organisations, legal assistance services, courts and other stakeholders to seek their views on critical access justice barriers and solutions. Some of the innovative projects on the consultation list include health-justice partnerships, Bush Court and the Justice Reinvestment trial in Bourke. Recent consultations have been held in Tasmania, Victoria and New South Wales, with Queensland currently on the agenda.
The consultation phase has illuminated powerful stories about the importance of accessing legal assistance, indicating that inability to access services can have life or death consequences. For example, Law Council representatives heard about a service that used creative approaches to help a woman disentangle herself from a 22-year violent relationship, and remain in the family home with her children. Another story involved a different woman who, despite her attempts, could not access help to deal with ongoing family violence, and was ultimately killed by her partner.
Pictured: Fiona McLeod SC (President, Law Council of Australia) and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Elder.
Many of the stories heard by the Justice Project highlight the cyclical nature of disadvantage, and the need to invest in holistic solutions to break this cycle. Integrated services are currently helping to address the complex needs of those experiencing severe disadvantage, though they are hindered by a lack of resources. Other common threads across consultations include the importance of building trust and developing relationships with clients, in addition to the necessity for further training and knowledge building across the justice and legal sectors to ensure that services are culturally competent.
Meetings have also indicated that community-driven and implemented programs are often most effective, especially in the case of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. A resounding message from nearly all stakeholders: lack of funding remains a central challenge. In addition to conducting consultations, the Law Council is receiving and processing submissions from the public, all of which will inform the upcoming Justice Project reports.
Pictured: Fiona Hussin (Deputy Director NTLAC), Fiona McLeod SC (President, Law Council of Australia), Suzan Cox QC (Director NTLAC) and Rebecca Preston.