“GRAVE INJUSTICES” in the access provided for legal aid funding have been identified by a recent parliamentary report, according to Shadow Attorney-General Nicola Roxon.
The 63 recommendations in the report, Legal Aid and Access to Justice, by the Senate Legal and Constitutional Committee, demand immediate attention to Australia’s legal system from Attorney-General Philip Ruddock, Roxon said in a statement.
Roxon said many of the more than 100 submissions that had been given to the committee highlighted problems that had developed since the Howard Government “slashed legal aid funding and introduced changes to the funding formula back in 1997”.
The Government was warned that this would have a negative impact on Australians receiving legal assistance, Roxon claimed, but had repeatedly refused to return to a cooperative funding model with the states and territories.
Roxon expressed concern for women involved in family law matters, who faced significant disadvantage in gaining access to adequate legal assistance. This was particularly problematic for matters involving domestic violence or child abuse, she stated.
Recommendation 14 calls on the Government to urgently increase the level of funding available for family law matters.
The Government must immediately address this issue if it was serious about saying no to violence against women, Roxon said.
She said this was also the case for another recommendation (22), which asks that legal representation be made available to all family law disputes involving allegations of domestic violence or child abuse.
Australian families cannot wait until after an election for justice to be delivered, Roxon stated.