Access to Justice: A Comparative Analysis of Cuts to Legal Aid
13 Pages Posted: 25 May 2015 Last revised: 2 Jun 2015
Date Written: July 21, 2014
Since 2013, restrictions on the provision of legal aid and changes to social, legal and welfare services have significantly increased demand for legal services in Australia, while simultaneously increasing the extent of unmet legal need. In this climate of austerity, a robust debate over the allocation of resources is taking place with questions regarding the priorities that should be accorded to government-funded serious criminal cases, to criminal representation in the lower courts, and to serious civil and family law matters. This has raised some important questions for practitioners, recipients of legal aid, courts, academics and providers of legal aid funding and services: namely, who deserves legal aid? Should legal aid seek to provide more people with fewer services or should it spend more money assisting fewer vulnerable clients? Who are the core clients of legal aid services? And in the context of finite funding and expanding demands, on what criteria are priorities decided, and who decides those criteria?
Note: These questions were the focus of a Monash University workshop organised by Dr Asher Flynn (Criminology, School of Social Sciences), Emeritus Professor Arie Freiberg (Faculty of Law), Professor Jude McCulloch (Criminology, School of Social Sciences) and Associate Professor Bronwyn Naylor (Faculty of Law) in July 2014. The workshop examined the implications of recent restrictions and changes to legal aid funding and services in Victoria. The workshop was part of a larger research project funded by the Monash Warwick Alliance, which involved an initial workshop in March 2014, held at the University of Warwick campus in England, organised by Ms Natalie Byrom (Centre for Human Rights in Practice, Law), Associate Professor James Harrison (Centre for Human Rights in Practice, Law) and Professor Jackie Hodgson (Centre for Criminal Justice, Law).
Keywords: legal aid, access to justice, lawyers
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