Law Council launches landmark Justice Project Final report
The Law Council yesterday officially launched the Justice Project’s Final Report with a call for the urgent implementation of Justice Impact Tests among the 59 recommendations.
Justice Impact Tests will prompt a whole-of-government approach when dealing with the pressures on the justice system, avoiding unintended consequences and their potentially tragic outcomes for vulnerable Australians.
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, the Hon. Robert French AC, outlined heartbreaking 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,” President Bailes said in his opening address.
“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 Law Council has been conducting this national, comprehensive review into the state of access to justice in Australia for people experiencing significant disadvantage.
The Justice Project is one of the most comprehensive reviews of its type in the past 40 years and one of the most significant pieces of work ever undertaken by the Law Council.
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 are: People with Disability; People Experiencing Economic Disadvantage; LGBTI+ People; Prisoners and Detainees; Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People; People who Experience Family Violence; People who have been Trafficked and Exploited; Recent Arrivals to Australia; Children and Young People; Rural, Regional and Remote (RRR) Australians; Asylum Seekers; Older Persons; People who are 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;
- prioritising preventative and early intervention approaches as well as successful exit strategies – including safe and secure housing, mental health and disability services, youth engagement, family support, and rehabilitation;
- initiatives to ensure that all justice system actors are culturally responsive, informed, accessible and include needs of diverse groups;
- a stronger focus on the needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and people in rural, regional and remote Australia; and
- targeted measures, including within the Australian Curriculum: Civics and Citizenship, to build practical knowledge of everyday legal issues and how to address them effectively.
The constructive, informed recommendations in the final report provide a roadmap for future action, building the case for new, whole-of-government justice strategies secured by appropriate funding.
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.
Following the launch, the Shadow Attorney-General, the Hon. Mark Dreyfus QC MP (who also attended the event) issued a statement congratulating the Law Council for the project and stating that it will ‘carefully consider all of these recommendations'.