What we do

We are committed to working on the justice system as well as within it. Under the Legal Aid Act 1978 (Vic) we are required to seek innovative means of providing legal assistance to reduce the need for individual legal services.

We are also required to provide the community with improved access to justice and legal remedies. One way of achieving this is by pursuing improvements in law and policy that result in better outcomes for our clients and the community more broadly.

Our services

We work to address systemic problems and improve the operation of the justice system through strategic litigation and casework, law reform submissions and engagement with stakeholders and the media.

This work is informed by our broad practice in civil, criminal and family, youth and children’s law. Our extensive practice experience means we are uniquely placed to identify patterns that expose opportunities for reform.

Based on the issues faced by our clients, our strategic advocacy priority areas in 2014–15 were:

  • access to justice for people with a mental illness or disability
  • appropriate interventions for children and young people
  • more effective responses to family violence
  • better administrative decision-making
  • vulnerable people and fines.

Facts and figures

We continued to assist governments and reviewing bodies in making improvements to the law by providing high quality, evidence-based submissions on issues affecting our clients. This year we made 18 law reform submissions, two of which were made jointly with National Legal Aid.

See Justice and law reform submissions for the full list of submissions.

Key achievements

The major organisation-wide strategic advocacy and law reform activities we undertook in 2014–15 included:

Royal Commission into Family Violence

We made an extensive submission to the Royal Commission into Family Violence in Victoria, drawing on our substantial expertise in assisting applicants and respondents in family violence intervention order matters, as well as people accused of crimes in the context of family violence. We also relied on our first-hand knowledge of the way family violence intersects with other legal problems.

Our submission highlighted the need for investment in both legal and non-legal services to promote better outcomes for people affected by family violence and reduce system congestion.

We highlighted the way in which legal services can have a preventative role in the response to family violence and can reduce the likelihood of inappropriate or unsafe agreements being reached through court processes.

Our submission also supported adopting a therapeutic and diversionary response to children and young people who use violence in the home.

National Ice Taskforce

In our submission to the National Ice Taskforce, our lawyers gave unique first-hand accounts of working clients affected by methamphetamines to detail the devastating toll the drug has on the community. 

The submission, which received significant media coverage, warned that the social costs and impact on the justice system of ice use will escalate if specialist rehabilitation and family support services are not introduced across the state.

Advocating for the state-wide rollout of the Drug Court and better access to specialist long-term rehabilitation and detox facilities for ice addiction will continue to be a focus in the year ahead.

Productivity Commission report on Access to Justice Arrangements

In December 2014, we welcomed the final report from the Productivity Commission on Access to Justice Arrangements, which called for an additional $200 million injection into legal assistance Australia-wide that would see hundreds of thousands of extra people eligible for legal aid.

We contributed extensively to the review through written submissions and oral hearings, highlighting the important role that legal assistance plays in promoting access to justice. The Commission acknowledged that a failure to invest in legal assistance constitutes a false economy as other services inevitably absorb the costs of unresolved legal problems.

We have used the Commission’s report to inform a number of initiatives in our new Strategy 2015–18 and continue to advocate for the adoption of a number of its recommendations.

More information

Major strategic advocacy and law reform activities were also undertaken through our programs. See: