The dire state of legal assistance funding in Australia has been highlighted as a matter of critical importance in the Law Council of Australia’s 2019-20 Pre-Budget Submission, with a boost of at least $310 million a year required to address critical gaps in the system.
Additional funding should also be provided to introduce Justice Impact Tests, improve resourcing of federal courts, and establish a National Justice Interpreter Scheme, said Law Council President, Arthur Moses SC.
“Legal assistance funding in Australia is abysmal and in need of urgent review. Some of our most vulnerable people are slipping through the cracks, as the Law Council’s Justice Project illustrates,” Mr Moses said.
“At least $310 million a year is needed to provide adequate funding for Legal Aid Commissions, community legal centres, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander legal services and family violence prevention legal services. This would provide a much needed injection of funds for frontline legal services to increase civil legal assistance and will come close to restoring the Commonwealth’s share of funding for Legal Aid Commissions to 50 per cent.
“Commonwealth legal aid funding is at its lowest in decades. In 1997 the Federal Government spent $11.22 per capita. Today, it is spending less than $8 per capita. Many living under the poverty line are ineligible.