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Community funding welcome but courts need more, says NSW Law Society

While the 2024–25 NSW budget bolsters state justice system resources and offers support to vulnerable individuals across the communities of Australia’s largest state, the Law Society of NSW has again flagged a lack of support the criminal justice system is currently receiving.

user iconGrace Robbie 19 June 2024 NewLaw
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The NSW government has released the 2024–25 NSW budget, in which it allocated funding to several key areas that aim at enhancing community safety and providing assistance to much-needed legal services.

It was announced that $126.6 million would be allocated towards Legal Aid, along with one-year funding for the Walama List, which is an initiative established by the NSW District Court to address the re-offending rates of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander individuals.

In addition, $66.9 million will be designated for community programs aimed at diverting young individuals from the criminal justice system, and $40.4 million will be allocated to legal professionals within the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions to uphold service standards and pursue serious criminal charges.


The president of the Law Society of NSW, Brett McGrath, said: “In the face of significant budget deficits over the forward estimates and a slowing economy, the Law Society is pleased the government has found space to provide much-needed funding boosts to key agencies that help deliver the rule of law in our community.”

He also stressed that the additional funding towards support services connected to the legal system clearly indicates the NSW government’s support for services that provide significant value to the community.

“The $224.1 million allocated to reform the out-of-home care system recognises the desperate need to properly care for children and young people for whom living with family is unsafe. The Law Society looks forward to working with the government on this critical work.

“We likewise welcome the $250 million investment in housing options for those most at risk of homelessness, and are particularly pleased that those exiting correctional facilities and mental health services are included among those who will benefit,” he said.

McGrath further commended the NSW budget for allocating funds to the Walama List, as it supports and assists First Nations individuals entrenched in the criminal justice system.

However, he said: “We note with some concern, however, that only one year’s funding has been provided for the critical and effective Walama List in the District Court. We look forward to more secure, long-term funding being included in future budgets.”

He also noted the Law Society’s appreciation for the NSW government investing $66.9 million in programs targeting youth diversion from the justice system.

“As a longstanding advocate of diversion programs to help children and young people avoid contact with the criminal justice system, the Law Society welcomes the $66.9 million investment in youth diversion, and again, looks forward to the details on how the money will be allocated,” he said.

Despite support from the Law Society of NSW and McGrath for various measures in the state budget, the member association also pointed out that the justice system, especially the courts, has received limited funding.

He emphasised that the Law Society acknowledges the difficult economic situation in which this budget was presented, but he stressed the urgent need for the government to show more clearly its dedication to supporting and bolstering the justice system in NSW.

“Justice is no less an essential service to the community than health, education, or transport. While hospitals, schools, and roads are designed and built to cater to growing communities and emerging technologies, courthouses are often left to decay.

“The Law Society again calls for a court system that keeps pace with community growth, including through appropriate investments in court facilities, including technology enabling more reliable use of audio-visual links and online courts,” McGrath said.