Legal Bodies Unite To Lobby For Access To Justice For All Australians

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11th December 2009, 01:43pm - Views: 869





Media Release


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19 Torrens St Braddon

ACT 1612 || GPO Box 1989

Canberra ACT 2601

Telephone +61 2 6246 3788

Facsimilie +61 2 6248 0639



MR4009

11 December 2009


Legal Bodies Unite to Lobby for

Access to

Justice for all Australians

The Law Council and a coalition of legal bodies have called on the Government

to restore access to justice for Australia’s most socially disadvantaged citizens. 

The call comes in the wake of a new report on legal aid funding, which identifies

the on-going decline in access to legal aid, and calculates that an injection of

$43.2 million is needed to restore it to pre-1997 levels.

The PricewaterhouseCoopers report on Legal Aid Funding also points out that in

some Australian states the means tests for legal aid are so strict that even people

who fall below the poverty line do not qualify for legal aid. 

The report was commissioned by the Victorian Bar, the Australian

Bar

Association, the Law Institute of Victoria and the Law Council,

to lobby for a

massive overhaul of federal/state legal aid funding.

Law Council President John Corcoran said, “No-one should have to face a court

on their own because they can’t pay for a lawyer. It flies in the face of equality

before the law – a core part of the integrity of our legal system.”

According to the report, the Commonwealth per capita contribution to legal aid

commissions in 1997 was $9.65. In 2008/2009, the level of funding was $8.26 per

capita and forecast to decline even further.

“As states and territories have been forced to take up more responsibility for legal

aid funding, this has exacerbated the unfair and unequal access to legal aid

according to where people live,” Mr Corcoran said.

The Victorian Bar’s David Neal SC, who project managed the report, said,

"Funding for legal aid is in crisis. We need the federal and state governments to

stop the blame game and come up with a national solution for an issue which

goes to the heart of the Australian system of justice."   

“While we applaud the Government’s commitment to funding initiatives for

alternative dispute resolution programs and legal information systems, funding at

the coal-face of our justice system is declining in

real terms,” Mr Corcoran

concluded.

To access the report, visit,


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Media Contact:

Ben Caddaye, Law Council: P. 02 6246 3725 || M. 041 399 3038

Alicia Patterson, Victorian Bar: 0403 172024


The Law Council of Australia exists to represent the legal profession at

the national level, to speak on behalf of its constituent bodies on national

issues, and to promote the administration of justice, access to justice

and general improvement of the law.






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