Increasing access to justice because ‘everyone deserves a fair go’

The Gillard Government has committed an additional $118.2 million in the 2013-14 Budget to improve access to justice for Australians.

The Gillard Government has committed an additional $118.2 million in the 2013-14 Budget to improve access to justice for Australians.

This new funding will support legal aid commissions, Community Legal Centres, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services and legal support for those engaging with the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

“Providing access to justice to all members of society is essential to strengthening Australia as an egalitarian democracy, living under the rule of law,” Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus QC said.

“Put simply, everyone deserves a fair go.”

The Gillard Government is increasing access to justice through:

  • $62.4 million over three years for legal support mechanisms for those engaging with the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse,
  • increased funding of $30 million over two years for Legal Aid Commissions,
  • a funding injection for Community Legal Centres of $10.3 million over four years,
  • additional funding of $12 million over two years for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services,
  • three additional judges for the Federal Court of Australia, and
  • exempting Independent Children’s Lawyers from certain court fees.

“Labor understands the importance of these services and the vital role they play in providing access to justice for Australians,” Minister Dreyfus said.

“We are providing $62.4 million over three years to ensure those engaging with the Royal Commission have access to appropriate legal advice and representation, and we are also increasing funding for legal aid commissions by $30 million.”

Legal aid commissions throughout Australia have been under pressure since savage cuts were made to the sector by the Howard Government.

“Legal aid commissions play a vital role in providing access to justice for Australians in need,” Minister Dreyfus said.

“The additional funding of $10.3 million for Community Legal Centres will enable the employment of more staff for frontline service delivery to disadvantaged Australians in areas such as family law and mortgage stress, and will help to address funding pressures caused by the withdrawal of funds by conservative state governments.”

The Gillard Government is also providing $12 million of new funding which will enable Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services build on the recent increase in Commonwealth funding for family law and child protection matters and to respond to expensive and complex criminal cases.

The Government is also responding to feedback from stakeholders and making changes so Independent Children’s Lawyers will be exempted from paying court fees for issuing subpoenas and interim order applications in family law proceedings.

“This recognises the integral role of Independent Children’s Lawyers in complex family law matters and will enable these lawyers to provide vital independent representation to children in court hearings at reduced cost,” Minister Dreyfus said.

“I am proud of the Government’s commitments to improve Australians’ access to justice, and I’m confident that these commitments will make a real difference to people’s lives.”

We are protecting these services like legal aid while the opposition wants to cut services like this to the bone.

This budget keeps our economy strong, makes the smart investments for our future and ensures every Australian gets a fair go.

We are investing for the future, putting jobs and economic growth first and protecting the important services that Australians rely on.