find the latest legal job
Corporate Counsel and Company Secretary
Category: Generalists - In House | Location: Newcastle, Maitland & Hunter NSW
· Highly-respected, innovative and entrepreneurial Not-for-Profit · Competency based Board
View details
Chief Counsel and Company Secretary
Category: Generalists - In House | Location: Newcastle, Maitland & Hunter NSW
· Dynamic, high growth organisation · ASX listed market leader
View details
In-house Projects Lawyer | Renewables / Solar | 2-5 Years PQE
Category: Generalists - In House | Location: All Australia
· Help design the future · NASDAQ Listed
View details
Insurance Lawyer (3-5 PAE)
Category: Insurance and Superannuation Law | Location: Brisbane CBD & Inner Suburbs Brisbane QLD
· Dynamic organisation ·
View details
In-house lawyer 1-4 PAE
Category: Generalists - In House | Location: Adelaide SA 5000
· Leading Brand · Report to a Dynamic Legal Counsel
View details
Lawyers lobby to remedy ‘woefully inadequate’ legal aid funding

Lawyers lobby to remedy ‘woefully inadequate’ legal aid funding

Fiona McLeod

National legal bodies have called for an urgent legal aid funding boost ahead of a meeting of the nation's attorneys-general this week.

The Australian Bar Association (ABA) and Law Council of Australia (LCA) are urging the Attorneys-General on the Law, Crime and Community Safety Council to commit more funding to legal assistance services or risk undermining access to justice in Australia.

The Council will meet this Friday (22 May) in Canberra, with the federal government’s spending forecasts for access to justice programs a key issue.

This year’s Federal Budget committed $1.23 billion over four years to legal aid, community legal centres and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander legal services.

While some cuts to legal assistance services have been reversed, the level of funding to the sector has failed to keep pace with population growth and inflation, translating into a decrease in spending in real terms.

ABA president and treasurer of the LCA, Fiona McLeod SC, said she was concerned about how the money will be distributed.

“Primarily, the issue is that demand is increasing while funding is not; in real dollar terms funding for justice is going backwards,” Ms McLeod said.

“The level of unmet legal need in Australia is now overwhelming and the Commonwealth budget allocation is woefully inadequate.”

She said the ABA was particularly concerned by the government’s proposed introduction of key performance indicators that carry severe penalties, including cutting off funding for up to six months, across all legal assistance services.

“The potential withdrawal of funding to this sector as a result of a failure to meet unrealistic key performance indicators punishes the most vulnerable in our community.”

Since January 2014 $60 million of Commonwealth funding for legal assistance services has been cut, affecting the Aboriginal Family Violence Prevention and Legal Service, community legal centres, Legal Aid and the Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Legal Service.

According to the Productivity Commission’s recent Access to Justice Arrangements report, $200 million a year is required to address ‘urgent need’ for legal assistance services in civil matters.

In addition to committing more funding to the sector, Ms McLeod has asked the attorneys-general to review the terms of a draft National Partnership Agreement on Legal Assistance Services and take steps to reach agreement on a more sustainable funding model.

“The existing adversarial model, which restricts Commonwealth funding to matters arising under Commonwealth laws, has resulted in less funding, more opaque expenditure and is not conducive to a national legal assistance program.

“The draft National Partnership Agreement also imposes unacceptably stringent performance benchmarks on legal assistance services, meaning failure to meet one of the benchmarks is almost inevitable and will jeopardise ongoing funding for the sector.”

Like this story? Read more:

QLS condemns actions of disgraced lawyer as ‘stain on the profession’

NSW proposes big justice reforms to target risk of reoffending

The legal budget breakdown 2017

Lawyers lobby to remedy ‘woefully inadequate’ legal aid funding
lawyersweekly logo
Promoted content
Recommended by Spike Native Network
more from lawyers weekly
Unite
Aug 22 2017
Professionals unite in support of marriage equality
The presidents of representative bodies for solicitors, barristers and doctors in NSW have come toge...
Aug 21 2017
Is your firm on the right track for gig economy gains?
Promoted by Crowd & Co. The way we do business, where we work, how we engage with workers, ev...
Scales of Justice, Victorian County Court, retiring judges
Aug 21 2017
Replacements named for retired Vic judges
Two new judicial officers have been appointed in the Victorian County Court, following the retire...
APPOINTMENTS
Allens managing partner Richard Spurio, image courtesy Allens' website
Jun 21 2017
Promo season at Allens
A group of lawyers at Allens have received promotions across its PNG and Australian offices. ...
May 11 2017
Partner exits for in-house role
A Victorian lawyer has left the partnership of a national firm to start a new gig with state governm...
Esteban Gomez
May 11 2017
National firm recruits ‘major asset’
A national law firm has announced it has appointed a new corporate partner who brings over 15 years'...
opinion
Nicole Rich
May 16 2017
Access to justice for young transgender Australians
Reform is looming for the process that young transgender Australians and their families must current...
Geoff Roberson
May 11 2017
The lighter side of the law: when law and comedy collide
On the face of it, there doesn’t seem to be much that is amusing about the law, writes Geoff Rober...
Help
May 10 2017
Advocate’s immunity – without fear or without favour but not both
On 29 March 2017, the High Court handed down its decision in David Kendirjian v Eugene Lepore & ...