find the latest legal job
Senior Associate - Litigation & Dispute Resolution
Category: Litigation and Dispute Resolution | Location: Melbourne CBD & Inner Suburbs Melbourne VIC
· Come work for a firm ranked in Lawyers Weekly Top 25 Attraction Firms
View details
Associate - Workplace Relations & Safety
Category: Industrial Relations and Employment Law | Location: Brisbane CBD & Inner Suburbs Brisbane QLD
· Employer of choice · Strong team culture
View details
Freelance Lawyers
Category: Banking and Finance Law | Location: All Perth WA
· Freelance opportunities through Vario from Pinsent Masons
View details
Freelance Lawyers
Category: Other | Location: All Adelaide SA
· • Qualified lawyer with a strong academic background
View details
Freelance Lawyers
Category: Other | Location: All Melbourne VIC
· • Qualified lawyer with a strong academic background
View details
McClelland pledges legal aid review

McClelland pledges legal aid review

Federal Attorney-General Robert McClelland has hinted at a revamp of the Rudd Government’s legal aid funding regime.In particular McClelland, speaking at the National Association of Community…

Federal Attorney-General Robert McClelland has hinted at a revamp of the Rudd Government’s legal aid funding regime.

In particular McClelland, speaking at the National Association of Community Legal Centres Conference last week, said he was reviewing the current policy under which Commonwealth legal aid funds could be used only for Commonwealth matters. McClelland said he realised that this policy, which was introduced in 1996 by the Howard government, had created “some artificial barriers to justice”.

Hugh de Kretser, the executive officer of the Federation of Community Legal Centres (Victoria), believes that the Commonwealth-state distinction has created significant problems, particularly in family law matters that often involve both state and Commonwealth issues.

He said that issues falling under the Commonwealth Family Law Act — such as divorce — could be funded by Commonwealth legal aid, but the Commonwealth would not fund related state-based issues such as domestic violence and child protection actions.

“So you get this arbitrary distinction [where the Federal Government says] ‘Well, we are only going to pay for the custody and property issues, but we’re not going to pay for the related family violence or child protection’,” de Kretser said.

Hamish Gilmore, the chair of National Legal Aid and director of the Legal Services Commission of South Australia, agreed that this distinction had added extra complexity to family disputes and need reform.

“We would like to see that rather than artificially separating funding between Commonwealth and state family law matters, we could use [Commonwealth funding] in a more general way so that the whole family disintegration can be handled — at least at the legal aid level — in one matter,” Gilmore said.

As well as family law matters, civil law matters — which are state-based — have also been significantly affected by the distinction, de Kretser said.

He explained that when the policy was introduced, Legal Aid had to refocus their expenditure so that the bulk of their Commonwealth funding went towards family law matters, and state funding towards criminal law matters.

The result, he said, was a dramatic reduction in funding available for civil law actions. Accordingly, community legal centres — non-government organisations to which the Commonwealth-state distinction did not apply — were inundated by civil law matters.

“We’re basically left to fill the gap in the justice system, so the underfunding of civil matters for legal aid has an impact on community legal centres and we support Legal Aid and their calls for funding,” de Kretser said.

He said that civil law matters now make up about 60 per cent of the work that community legal centres do, however they don’t have the necessary resources to provide sufficient legal advice or representation.

“It’s very hard for us to take on a large number of matters and to represent people in court, de Kretser said. “There needs to be a drastic increase in funding for civil law matters through community legal centres and Legal Aid because at the moment [people’s] rights are being rendered meaningless by the fact that they can’t actually get the assistance to pursue them.”

Gilmore concurred: “[Community legal centres] have very limited resources. They can’t hire you a lawyer to fight your builder or your secondhand car dealer or whatever, so there are great gaps in the system at the moment because of this federal-state divide,” he said. “The untapped need out there for civil help is enormous.”

McClelland is currently reviewing the Commonwealth legal aid funding policy, and the issue is on the agenda of the next meeting of the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General in November.

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

McClelland pledges legal aid review
lawyersweekly logo
Promoted content
Recommended by Spike Native Network
more from lawyers weekly
microphone
Oct 20 2017
Podcast: One of law’s most infamous alumni – in conversation with Julian Morrow
In this episode of The Lawyers Weekly Show, Melissa Coade is joined by The Chaser’s Julian Morrow....
protest
Oct 20 2017
High Court overturns ‘excessive’ anti-protest legislation
Bob Brown’s recent victory in the High Court over the Tasmanian government was a win for fundament...
Blocked
Oct 20 2017
Changes to Australian citizenship laws blocked
Attempts to beef up the requirements to obtain Australian citizenship were thwarted this week, after...
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 & ...