Unresolved legal problems can entrench disadvantage and increase social exclusion unless legal assistance is made available to members of the community, Attorney-General Robert McClelland said on Wednesday.
McClelland, who was addressing the Australian National University (ANU) law students' society social justice dinner, said an Access to Justice Taskforce had been established to develop strategic approaches to the problem.
"Failure to address small civil law problems can increase stress on families and individuals and lead to the loss of health, income or employment, violence or crime, loss of home and relationship stress," he said.
"As a lawyer, and even more so as a local member, I have met a number of people who have been unable to address a small legal problem before it escalates. Often this is because they don't know what to do or where to go."
Legal advice and assistance, especially early on, could resolve issues before they escalated, said McClelland. "Such advice can also identify that a person may need assistance outside of the legal system - such as referral to health and employment support services," he said.