Productivity Commission inquiry a welcome and timely response to the access to justice crisis

Community Law Australia has today welcomed the Attorney-General’s announcement that the Productivity Commission will examine the legal access crisis in Australia, and consider how best to improve access.

Community Law Australia Spokesperson Carolyn Bond said that access to justice should not depend on the size of your bank balance or where you live, but that access should extend to all who need it.

“The legal assistance sector, made up of community legal centres (CLCs), Legal Aid and Indigenous Legal Services, already works collectively to facilitate access to justice, however with high demand for legal advice and representation – this work is made harder,” Ms Bond said.

“The Productivity Commission inquiry is an opportunity to critically examine the entire legal system in Australia, and recommend efficient and effective ways for it to operate so that people who need legal help but can’t afford it – aren’t missing out.

“People come to CLCs for a diverse range of legal issues such as family violence, financial abuse, unfair evictions, workplace bullying or unfair dismissal.

“Unfortunately, the legal assistance sector is underfunded in terms of capacity to meet client demand. Many of our services have to turn away people in need.

“CLCs report seeing steadily increasing numbers of clients with complex legal problems, but they also play a key role as guides – often helping people resolve matters early through dispute prevention, and alternatives to the Courts such as industry ombudsman schemes and mediation.

“The Productivity Commission inquiry will see greater analysis of the benefit of legal assistance services, and the excellent work CLCs do to resolve matters before they reach crisis point – taking pressure off our clogged Court system.

“We have commissioned independent reviews that demonstrate significant value for money. For every dollar spent by government, $18 worth is given back to the community.

“Ensuring our legal system is the best it can be, and that people have equitable access to their rights, benefits our community as a whole – and the Productivity Commission inquiry will offer welcome insights into how to better increase access to justice and meet community demand,” Ms Bond said.

Read the Attorney-General’s Media Release here

Community Law Australia is a coalition of community legal centre bodies led by the National Association of Community Legal Centres. There are around 200 community legal centres (CLCs) providing Australians with around half a million free legal services each year – including advice, information and representation.

Community Law Australia recently launched its Five Point Plan to address the legal access crisis in Australia. Download the 5 Point plan (PDF)

Download this media release (PDF)