This tax time, the Australasian Legal Information Institute (AustLII) Foundation is calling on members of the profession to help support the library that has been supporting them for over 20 years.
The annual cost for running the library is $1.2 million and the group needs ongoing donations to continue expanding its digital databases which currently numbers about 770 databases.
“AustLII is committed to free access to public legal information [which] is a democratic right that promotes justice and the rule of law; and the principle that public legal information is digital common property and should be accessible to all on a not-for-profit basis and free of charge,” the institute said.
“Our continued existence depends on the contributions we receive from supporters to ensure that we can provide free-access legal information to the Australian community.”
Professor Andrew Mowbray and Professor Graham Greenleaf, two academics from the University of Technology Sydney and the University of New South Wales, spearheaded the project which has grown to be the largest, free legal information system in Australia.
Founded in 1995 with a grant from the Australian Research Council, today AustLII is the most widely accessed online resource in Australia, with the institute meeting approximately 750,000 access requests for information every single day.
AustLII owns more than 30 per cent of the Australian market share for free legal information and its library contains extensive resources for Australian case law, legislation, treaties and international instruments, as well as academic articles.
An important objective of the library is the democratisation of information, which means improving access to legal content for the wider community as well as lawyers.
“The legal profession, business and industry, courts and tribunals, government agencies, educational institutions and the general community all make contributions to support AustLII,” the institute said.
To this end, a redesign of the AustLII website is currently underway, with a focus on improving user experience to have more “intuitive functionality”.
Another recent AustLII initiative is a digital handbook about Northern Territory law developed to convey basic information about the content of the law to a non-lawyer audience, with comparable resources being workshopped for other states and territories.
In 2008, the decision was made to establish the AustLII Foundation Limited as a company limited by guarantee, with charitable objectives and tax-deductible status. The other arm of the group, the AustLII Research Centre, is funded by research grants.
Tax-deductable donations of more than $2 to the AustLII Foundation will be invested in computing infrastructure for the digital library, as well as maintaining the technical capacity of staff.