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Access to justice crisis in the bush

Access to justice crisis in the bush

A number of universities are teaming up in an attempt to address the decline in the numbers of country lawyers.Legal academics from the University of New England, Deakin University, the…

A number of universities are teaming up in an attempt to address the decline in the numbers of country lawyers.

Legal academics from the University of New England, Deakin University, the University of Southern Queensland, Southern Cross University and Griffith University will commence a 12-month study project in November to try and promote the benefits of rural practice to graduates.

In speaking to Lawyers Weekly, Griffith Law School academic Trish Mundy said the shortage of lawyers in rural communities is leading to a crisis in terms of access to justice.

"We are trying to develop in the undergraduate law curriculum opportunities to include within the curriculum information about rural and regional practice strategies which will help undergraduate students consider the practice of law in rural, regional and remote communities," said Mundy.

The project has received $133,000 in funding from the Australian Learning and Teaching Council, with Mundy stating that this study will look to similar initiatives promoting regional services in education and medicine to develop a strategy to encourage lawyers to head to and stay in the bush.

"The project will try and build on the work of initiatives in the curriculums of education and medical courses which have encouraged and supported rural services," she said. "We are hoping to develop a national approach to also promote the benefits of lawyers working in regional and rural areas to be embedded in the curriculums of law schools."

Mundy added that a key part of this approach will be to develop an online network of lawyers, students and academics to promote regional practice.

A 2009 Law Council of Australia survey found that over 40 per cent of principals in country areas said they did not have enough lawyers to service their client base.

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